Black Market Fat

I’m sure you’ve all been avidly following the story of Los Pishtacos – the Peruvian gang of some dozen people who have allegedly been killing indigenous Peruvians, draining the corpses of body fat and selling the fat on the black market.

Two of the gang members were arrested this week at a bus station carrying pop bottles full of liquid which police labs confirmed was human fat. Police have also recovered at least one of the rendered bodies.

The suspects claim they killed their victims, cut off their heads and limbs, took out their organs and then hung the bodies upside down and surrounded them with candles to melt the fat and letting it drip into a bucket below.

They say they got paid $60,000 for every gallon of human fat they sold (They got about one gallon of fat off every person) The say they sold the bottles of rendered human fat to cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies in Europe.

The gang leader, one Hilario Cudena, says he’s been making a nice living off this little enterprise for over 30 years. [Hello……. Hilario? Right away this name would make me suspect a big old prank — if it weren’t for the actual mutilated, fat-free body they found]

And there is a lot of scepticism around this case – mainly because no one can figure out why there would be an underground market for human body fat when there are literally tons of people eager to donate – for free.

Certain manufacturers of soap, lipstick, and eye makeup get fat from rendering plants and animal carcasses (swine, cattle, poultry) and combine it with discarded cooking grease.

Among some of the animal-derived ingredients in cosmetics are:

  • Arachidonic acid, a liquid unsaturated fatty acid taken from the liver, glands, and fat of animals, is used in skin creams to soothe inflammation. 
  • Hyaluronic acid, a natural moisturizing factor, is found in umbilical cords and the fluids around the joints.
  • Monoglycerides/glycerides, stearic acid, and oleic acid can all be obtained from animal fats
  • Placenta polypeptides protein contains waste matter eliminated by the fetus
  • Gelatin is an animal-derived protein produced by boiling skin, ligaments, and/or bones with water (There’s always room for Jello!)

Anyway, none of this stuff costs anywhere close to $60,000 a gallon. Also, rendering humans seems like an awful lot of work to me – all that killing and hacking and sawing. All those candles. How do they keep candles lit for hours outdoors anyway? If they have candles that good, maybe they should be selling them. Because I’d totally buy candles capable of burning outside and hot enough and long enough to melt my fat. Wouldn’t you?

And, if they’ve already gone to all the trouble of kidnapping and killing people and taking out their organs, why not sell the organs? They’re worth a hell of a lot more than $60,000.  In fact, by 2008 figures, a fully-harvested human can gross $250,000 on the Black Market. And no pricey candles to buy.  A good, sharp knife and a Playmate Elite lunch cooler is your entire overhead.

Cosmetic chemist and writer, Amanda Foxon-Hill was quoted as saying;

 If there is a modern day market for human fat, it’s not in mainstream cosmetics. But I would think that the only marketing angle you could put on this is that, you know, capturing something other than the chemistry of the oils, when people search for exotic oils from either the Amazon or the outer regions of the globe, they’re looking for something that they can market as a special angle and have special properties.

Kind of like in Fight Club, where Brad Pitt makes fancy soap with fat stolen from liposuction clinics.

Another theory is that European cosmetics manufacturers are buying the fat for research. They’ve been doing stem cell research for its value in cosmetics and stem cells are extracted from human fat. Usually this fat is legally obtained from hospital scraps, but there have been problems with these tissues being contaminated with infectious viruses, bacteria, HIV, fetal bovine serum (FBS), and various enzymes, which can cause allergic reactions, illness and death. And who wants any of  that from their lipstick, am I right?

Still, why would European cosmetics manufacturers pay huge amounts of money to some creepy gang of killers in Peru when I’m sure lots of local people would happily volunteer for free liposuction?

My personal theory is that it’s either a PR hoax by Tourism Peru to discourage overweight tourists from visiting their svelte little country or some sort of bold statment fromPETA to encourage people to buy cruelty-free cosmetics.


17 responses to “Black Market Fat

  1. That’s the weirdest stuff I’ve heard in quite some time. Maybe PETA is actually financing this to cut out the market for rhino horns, elephant tusks and other exotic animal parts. Picture these clandestine meetings – “No there’s no market for Orangutan paws – we want human fat!”

  2. Oh I’m going to be sick. Yuck yuck. But it does seem like a ridiculous way to make money. You never know though, people are stupid. What seems obvious to us may not seem so to someone who hacks of people’s heads for a living.

  3. When I heard this story, all I could think of was the liposuction angle. Wouldn’t it be easier to start up a liposuction clinic and market the fat?

    Oh, and now I *have* to see Fight Club.

  4. This is the first I’ve heard of it and it smells like a hoax to me. Hilario? That’s a giveaway straight there. I mean, c’mon, candles? There has got to be a better way to melt human fat. What if it’s windy?

  5. Geewits – Ya, has to be PETA. It’s the only thing that makes sense.

    Linda – Like I said, there must be millions of people who’d be happy to give up their fat for science.

    Christine – I hope we get some follow-up to this story. I hate it when the news gives you a few weeks of stuff like this and then that’s the last we ever hear of it when really there are so many unanswered questions. Enquiring minds need to know.

    Friar – No theories of your own?

    Alison – It’s totally crazy, isn’t it? Maybe liposuction isn’t all that popular in Peru –especially if all the fat they can get off the average Peruvian is one gallon. They should move to Texas maybe.

    Jazz – The whole thing is whack-a-doodle crazy, isn’t it? But they did find that dead guy….

  6. I think Hilario is leading people astray. The fat isn’t for cosmetics its for deep frying. It’s a form of recycling that the greens will be all over in a little while. Get fat on burgers and fries. Drain the fat and reuse to make the next one fat.
    It’s a closed loop sustainable way to produce new burgers and fries.
    And human fat has a very high smoking temperature.

  7. My first reaction to hearing about this story was: Eew! Run away, run away! It was NOT to read more about it. And thanks for giving me another reason never to watch “Fight Club”. Gack.

  8. @XUP,

    You know, the first rule of Fight Club is, do not talk about Fight Club.

    (Tyler’s coming to visit you, and he’s not happy.)


    The scene in question is a very minor part of Fight Club, and the message is much deeper than selling rich ladies their own ass fat 🙂

    (But there is a lot of fighting, so it might not appeal to you anyway.)

    My theory on why these people did this?

    Well you see, in any animal population, you will have a certain percentage of “defective units”, and as the population size increases, so does the number of “defective units”.

    These folks are just insane, nothing more, and unfortunately some other people were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Very sad.

  9. Bizarre… it just doesn’t make sense.

    If it’s out of fear of infection who the heck knows what kind of diseases the Peruvians might have … you just don’t know.

    Almost as weird as the sneakers that kept washing up on the shores of BC.

  10. Bandobras – What an excellent idea! See if you can sell it to Suzuki.

    Julia – You mean Brad Pitt wasn’t enough reason to avoid it?

    Hannah – In a few decades the government will issue a formal apology and dish out some compensation.

    Brett – Insanely entrepreneurial.

    Sean – Bandobras will be pleased.

    Nat – Not sneakers – they were FEET that kept getting washed up on the shore — lots of FEET, without legs, though some did have sneakers I think

  11. i had not heard of this story at all and it’s scary but would probably make a good movie. i’m definitely interested in those special candles 🙂

    (coincidentally i had a small twitter conversation about that fight club scene, thinking they used boobs and was corrected.)