Supplies of a chemical agent used in making antibiotics have run low after a key supplier was found to have used raw materials contaminated with "gutter oil", a major mainland newspaper reported yesterday.
Citing unidentified sources from major pharmaceutical companies on the mainland, China Business News reported that the use of the contaminated oil - salvaged from restaurant waste, gutters, drains and animal fat, then reprocessed - was far more common among pharmaceutical operations than the public knew about.
"This is a common industry practice," an industry insider with one of the companies was quoted as saying. "There is more than one drug company involved."
The antibiotics scandal came to light during a high-profile case heard on August 28 in Ningbo, Zhejiang province.
The Huikang Oil Company in Henan province was accused of buying gutter oil from a Shandong company and mixing it with soya bean oil, then selling it to manufacturers of food, animal feed and pharmaceuticals.
The case revealed that more than 50 food manufacturers and drug producers had procured the contaminated soya bean oil.
The oil was used to extract a chemical agent, 7-ACA, in the production of antibiotics.