If you're currently touring in China, the answer to our question today could be, "Quite possibly."

WARNING: If you are eating right now, especially in China, you might delay reading further.

It seems that black-market swill oil, or gutter oil, (illegally reprocessed cooking oil)  is a fairly lucrative business in parts of China. So lucrative in fact, producers of the rank product may be willing to kill to protect their interest.

Li Xiang, a reporter investigating the swill oil market in Henan for Luoyang TV,  was found dead early Monday morning. Li had been stabbed 10 times on his way home from an evening of karaoke with his friends. Bloggers said they suspected Li's death was related to his reporting.

Police are treating the case as a robbery-murder. Li's laptop is missing. The last post on Li's micro-blog on September 15 said web users had complained that Luanchuan county (in Henan) has gangs manufacturing gutter cooking oil. However, the food safety commission replied that they didn't find any manufacturing in the area. Because of Li's reports, he had been embroiled in recent disputes with the food safety commission itself. 

Recently, Kunming law enforcement busted a swill oil factory reported to have been processing up to 1 ton of swill oil per day. The swill oil was sold for $0.52 (fifty-two cents) per pound, and from records recovered, this factory sold close to 50 tons of the crap between June and August. That's $52,000 revenue for that period, or an estimated $300,000 to $400,000 per year! And that's just one processor!

At that rate Chinese experts agree that out of every ten times you eat out in China, one meal will probably have been prepared from swill oil. Just do the math. How much swill oil will you consume during your stay in China?

More concerning, with the drive to cut operating costs, would any of this swill get past the FDA in the US? Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Tinsel Town -- we hope not!

Your comments and concerns are appreciated.

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