Two men were found guilty this week of economic espionage for stealing a U.S. company’s secret recipe for a chemical that is used to whiten, among other things, the soft, creamy middles of Oreo cookies.
According to Shanghaiist, the men were charged with stealing the recipe for making titanium oxide from Delaware-based DuPont Co. Titanium oxide sales are worth $17 billion a year, and DuPont accounts for 20 percent of that. The chemical is used to whiten all kinds of things, from cars to Oreo cookie cream..
DuPont’s method of making titanium oxide is a patented process that the company was unwilling to sell to competitors in China. The manufacturing process is reportedly dangerous and quite difficult, but it’s much cleaner and quicker than the technique used by factories in China.
The two men, including a former DuPont scientist, were convicted Wednesday of selling the titanium oxide technology to a state-controlled Chinese company. They are facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and more than 15 years in prison.