Rogue Hebei merchants are using fat from potentially diseased pigs, recycled oil and substandard flour to produce copycat versions of popular instant noodle brands, a Shanghai magazine reported. The Xinmin Weekly yesterday reported that profiteers had set up factories in Longxiao county, Xingtai , near the home of leading mainland noodle brands such as Hualong and Three Princes. It reported that the colourfully packaged noodles sold for 50 fen a pack in Hebei, but were mainly being marketed in rural areas outside Xingtai because the locals knew the food was harmful. Workers without gloves or masks were said to be mixing dough while wiping sweat from their faces with their hands. Some did not even bother washing their hands when returning from the toilet, the report said. 'None of the workers have received health checks,' the report quoted a former factory owner, who gave his name as Mr Jia, as saying. He told the magazine he closed down his business because he felt guilty. He said high profits and simple production processes had encouraged the unscrupulous merchants to start the businesses. According to mainland food safety regulations, the instant noodle industry has to use imported palm oil, costing between 4,000 yuan and 7,000 yuan a tonne, to fry noodles. 'Even small factories like mine needed 200 to 300 tonnes each year. In order to save costs, I just bought recycled oil abandoned by big factories,' Mr Jia said, adding that many small factories in Longxiao ran in a similar way because of lax supervision. He said his factory produced 80,000 packs of noodles a day, earning a net profit of 40,000 yuan a month. 'I also made a profit of 6,000 yuan a year from the old oil that I sold to a farmer, who in turn took out the dirty colour and sold it to small local restaurants,' the former owner said. He told the magazine it was well known that the mainland's noodle industry used recycled oil.