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The skinny on fat

22 November 2009

It’s one of those great gross-out tales, supposedly only coming from the Heart of Darkness, i.e., Latin America:

Reuters (19-November-2009):

LIMA, Nov 19 (Reuters) – Peruvian police said on Thursday they had broken up a gang that allegedly killed dozens of people and sold their fat to buyers who used it to make cosmetics.

Four Peruvians were arrested on suspicion of kidnapping, murder and trafficking in human fat.

The group stored the fat it collected in used soda and water bottles, which police showed reporters.

“We have people detained who have declared and stated how they murdered people with the aim being to extract their fat in rudimentary labs and sell it,” said Police Commander Angel Toldeo.

In addition to those taken into custody, police said they were searching for others who bought fat from the gang or might have worked with it.

Remains from some of the victims were found at a rural house in the region of Huanuco where the group worked, according police video.

Police said they were investigating 60 disappearances in the area that might be linked to the gang…

At first glance, it almost makes sense.  After all, it feeds into two basic cliches.  Either that those living in the jungle, or in Latin America, or the “third world” are savages who don’t have the same standards of decency WE do; or the decadent west are the ruthless exploiters and murders of the masses, all in the name of profit without honor.

Then… some doubts creep in.  Why would one need “labs” — crude or otherwise — to render fat.  You need a big pot, some water and a spoon.  Secondly, who’d pay $15,000 U.S. dollars a liter for the stuff, as the killers claimed?

Dr. Julio Castro,   the dean of Lima’s College of Medicine, is quoted as saying “Hundreds of liters of human fat are obtained every day at cosmetic clinics, and disposed of” .   OK, I know enough basic economics to understand that the rarer the product, the higher the price, and there’s plenty of alternative sources of human fat. Maybe skinny Peruvian fat has some special ingredients we don’t know about.  Is it marketing?  Or just bullshit?

I don’t know the source of this map, but it shows the world’s countries proportional to daily caloric intake per person.  Peru (and all South America) is underweight, and Mexico (supposedly the second fattest nation on earth) isn’t as chubby you think:

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mary O'Grady permalink
    22 November 2009 3:10 pm

    The weirdest part of the story is, who was going to pay US$15,000 per liter for unsterile home-rendered human lipids in reused Coke bottles? I can’t imagine a market for that.

  2. buddenbooks permalink
    23 November 2009 6:29 am

    Could you give a llink for the map and maybe a legend for what the colors mean?

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