Chinese police bust million-dollar rat-meat ring

BEIJING Fri May 3, 2013 1:55am EDT

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police have broken a crime ring that passed off more than $1 million in rat and small mammal meat as mutton, authorities said, in a food safety crackdown that coincides with a bird flu outbreak and other environmental pressures.

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.

During the crackdown, police discovered one suspect surnamed Wei who had used additives to spice up and sell rat, fox and mink meat at markets in Shanghai and Jiangsu province.

Police arrested 63 suspects connected to the crime ring in a case valued at more than 10 million yuan ($1.6 million) in sales since 2009.

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 metric tons (22.046 tons) of fake or inferior meat products after breaking up illegal food plants during the nationwide operation, the ministry said.

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. 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 metric tons of tainted pork in Anhui province, although as much as 60 metric tons 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.

(Reporting by Michael Martina and Sally Huang; Editing by Paul Tait)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (3)
yapollo wrote:
This is technique the bad guys in China copied from Wall street where a rotten subprime mortgages were packaged and securitized to a investment and get AAA quality rating by rating agency.

May 03, 2013 3:11pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
There is one Chinese saying: Chinese will eat anything with legs except tables and chairs. This saying is meant to poke fun at themselves.

The idea of eating rat on one hand is disgusting; on the other hand it is another example of Chinese’s inability to move a conversation or an idea to a new level. It has actually been discussed in the West the nutritional value of rat; and how it might be a solution to solve hunger in some parts of the world. Do Chinese know how to do create this conversation first? But I know that if ever it is considered “fashonable” to eat rat in the West, Chinese will then follow the trend.

Even with enough scientific backings, I won’t even try to eat rat meat — even if it is farm-raised and no matter how clean it is. The idea is simply repulsive.

Beyong the fact that it is just plain illegal to sell something without giving it the correct label, Chinese have a strange sense of cleanliness. Chinese will ask that you remove your shoes before you are allowed to go into their houses; they with keep the plastic wrap on their furniture for as long as it lasts when using the furniture, etc. But they could not care less about the public spaces.

Have you visited a Chinatown? It’s condition is just apalling! When my mother and I visited the San Francisco Chinatown in 1995 as tourists from Malaysia, she was shocked by how dirty and smelly the streets were. And we are of Chinese background!

I used to buy foods from one Chinese restaurant in the Chinatown in Oakland, California until one day the owner just nonchalantly picked up a piece of food (bun, Sieu Mai or something else I can no longer remember) from the floor, blew the dust of and placed it back to the tray. We sometime question just how clean foods service in the public can be, but this restaurant owner did it right in front of me!

May 03, 2013 7:13pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
SlammerWorld wrote:
Never eating in china, that’s crazy!!!!!!!!!!!

May 03, 2013 7:17pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.