On August 10, the Shimian District Court of Ya’an City, Sichuan Province, held a public hearing on a case involving a criminal complaint of incidental civil interest against the operator and employee of a county hot pot restaurant. He was accused of allegedly producing and selling toxic and harmful food.

On August 12, a Red Star News reporter was informed of the result of the first hearing. Yu, the hot pot restaurant operator, was sentenced to ten years in prison, ordered to pay punitive damages of $2.2 million and to apologize to the public in municipal and Red Star News media.

The court said that this is the first case in Ya’an to impose punitive damages of ten million yuan in monitoring and punishing crimes against food safety.

The court found that since August 2015, Yu Mou, the operator of a hot pot restaurant, instructed and arranged for the venue’s waiters, He Mou and Peng Mou, to refine waste oil (commonly known as “gutter oil” or “recycled oil”) into hot pots to reduce operating costs and increase the taste of the hot pots, which are then sold to customers for consumption.

On January 13, 2022, after receiving relevant information, the public security police contacted Yu by phone to investigate.  

After learning about the case, he confessed that he had instructed his staff to refine the “recycled oil” and sell it to customers who came to the premises.

According to the audit, as of the incident, the total amount of sales of “recycled oil” pot bottoms at the hot pot restaurant was $219,000.

The Shimian County Court tried the case, the criminal and civil first instance sentences were handed down on August 10, 2022.

As for the criminal punishment, the boss, Yu Mou, and the waiters, Peng Mou and He Mou, were sentenced to prison terms of ten years, five years and two years, respectively, for the crime of producing and selling poisonous and harmful food. 

For the proceeds of crime, they will be fined $534,000, over $14.8 million and over $7.4 million, respectively, and the three individuals will be banned for life from engaging in food production and operation and related management work.

In the incidental civil public interest litigation, the operator of the hot pot restaurant, Yu Mou, was ordered to pay punitive damages of $2.2 million and to apologize to the public in the media at the municipal level and in Red Star News.

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