Friday, May 3, 2013

 

Rat meat crime ring busted in China; 63 arrested;officials cheesed off

China busts million-dollar rat-meat ring; officials cheesed off .


Chinese police arrested 63 people for selling more than $1.6 million of rat, fox and mink meat and passing it off as lamb.

Planning on eating lamb in China in the near future?

You may want to think twice.

Chinese authorities announced Thursday that they have arrested 63 people who allegedly bought rat, fox and mink meats, coated the flesh with gelatin, nitrates and red pigment and then sold the mutated meat as mutton in Shanghai and a nearby province for approximately $1.6 million.

The gastronomic dragnet was part of a larger effort in China, led by new Prime Minister Li Keqiang, to clean up the country's illicit food trade, one that regularly serves up diseased and mismarked meat to diners, often sickening them in the process.

"Chinese food production has become larger scale and more technological, but the problems emerging also involve using more sophisticated technology to beat regulators and cheat consumers," Mao Shoulong, a professor of public policy at Renmin University in Beijing, told The New York Times.

Since January, a nationwide sweep in China targeting food violators has netted 904 people so far. The suspects are accused of selling diseased and altered meats. Additionally, the Chinese government has shut down more than 1,700 factories and shops that produced and passed on the phony fare.

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.

Overcrowding and disease are prevalent in Chinese livestock facilities. The high-profile March discovery of more than16,000 dead pigs in a Shanghai river (and a main water source) was likely due to congestion at area pig farms. Police have also confiscated 16.5 tons of tainted pork in the Anhui province.

The Chinese culinary market is also flooded with protected animals from around the world.

Just last month, Filipino police intercepted a Chinese vessel carrying more than 22,000 pounds of pangolin meat after the boat ran — posing as a fishing craft — smacked into a protected coral reef in the Philippines. Two species of pangolin are classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as endangered.

In 2007, an investigation by the International Fund for Animal Welfare discovered 1,900 illegal animal items from 30 endangered species for sale on major Chinese auction sites.

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