From Kerry McDermott, Daily Mail London
Rat meat has been passed off as mutton and sold at markets in China, police have confirmed.
Authorities cracked a crime ring that saw more $1million in rat and small mammal meat sold as mutton, in a food safety crackdown that coincides with a bird flu outbreak that has sent poultry sales plummeting in China.
One vendor was found to be using additives to spice up and sell rat, fox and mink meat as fake lamb rolls at markets in Shanghai that are frequented by tourists.
Rodents: Tourists who bought what they thought was mutton from markets in Shanghai may actually have been sold rat meat
Crackdown: Authorities in China found instances of rat, fox and mink meat being passed off as mutton (file photo)
‘After adding gelatine, carmine, nitrate and other substances, he sold the meat as fake lamb rolls [for hot pot] at farmers’ markets in Jiangsu and Shanghai’, authorities said of the suspect, who has the surname Wei.
Wei’s organisation was raided in Jiangsu and Shanghai in February, which led to the arrest of 63 suspects and the seizure of 10 tons of meat and additives.
The operations sales since 2009 are estimated to add up to more than 10million yuan ($1.6million).
Authorities have arrested 904 suspects since the end of January for selling and producing fake or tainted meat products, the Ministry of Public Security said in a statement posted on its website on Thursday.
Despite persistent efforts by police, ‘food safety crimes are still prominent, and new situations are emerging with new characteristics’, the ministry’s statement said, citing ‘responsible officials’.
Police confiscated more than 20,000 tonnes of fake or inferior meat products after breaking up illegal food plants during the nationwide operation, the ministry said.
Altogether there were ‘382 cases of water-injected meat, fake mutton and beef, diseased meat, toxic and harmful meat products’, the statement said.
As well as rat and fox meat being passed off as mutton, inspectors found evidence of other vendors in southwestern Guizhou province mixing hydrogen peroxide solution with chicken claws, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Food safety and environmental pollution are chronic problems in China and public anxiety over cases of fake or toxic food often spreads quickly.
In April, many consumers lost their appetite for poultry as an outbreak of the H7N9 bird flu virus spread in China.
‘Everything we eat is poison’: News of the latest scandal to hit China coincides with an outbreak of bird flu that has sent poultry sales plummeting
Sales dropped by 80 percent in eastern China, where the bird flu has been most prevalent, although experts stress that cooked chicken is perfectly safe.
In March, more than 16,000 rotting pigs were found floating in one of Shanghai’s main water sources, triggering a public outcry.
Over-crowding at pig farms was likely behind the die-off and their disposal in the Huangpu river.
The public security ministry said police had confiscated more than 15 tonnes of tainted pork in Anhui province, although as much as 60 tonnes had been sold in Anhui and Fujian provinces since mid-2012.
But it was the rodent meat in particular that people couldn’t stomach, with Internet users turning to the popular microblogging site Sina Weibo to vent their outrage.
‘Rats? How disgusting. Everything we eat is poison,’ one user wrote.
‘We are nearly immune to hundreds of poisons, should we thank these fantastic businessmen?’ another said.