Rat-meat is at the center of a crime ring recently busted for food safety violations in China. On Thursday, government officials confirmed that 63 individuals have been arrested in the scam and accused of selling rat-meat as lamb to consumers.
The rat-meat crime ring was busted as part of a substantial country-wide crackdown on food safety violations. According to China’s Ministry of Public Security, more than 900 people suspected of manufacturing and selling fake or tainted meat have been arrested over the past three months.
During the government operation, police managed to take down several illegal food plants, reportedly leading to the seizure of over 20,000 tons of illegal counterfeit meat products.
Nearly 400 separate cases involving tainted meat products were reportedly uncovered during the three month sting.
In some instances, suspects allegedly falsified product weight by injecting meat with water. In other cases, food items such as chicken claws were processed with chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide.
The leader behind the rat-meat crime ring, identified by police as a male with the surname Wei, was busted after being accused of selling more than $1 million in rat, fox, and mink meat falsely labeled as lamb.
In an effort to disguise the true nature of his products, Wei allegedly injected additives such as gelatine, carmine, nitrate, and other substances into the meat.
Authorities indicate that Wei has been selling the fake meat products at markets in the Shanghai and Jiangsu provinces since 2009. According to officials, his rat-meat ring was busted in February. During the raid on his organization, roughly 10 tons of meat and additives were confiscated.
As part of Thursday’s announcement, the Ministry of Public Security indicated that the crackdown was prompted by China’s “deep-seated food safety problems.” The statement acknowledged that despite the determination of authorities to quell the problem, “food safety crimes are still prominent, and new situations are emerging with new characteristics.”
The rat-meat ring busted by police is just the latest in a growing number of food related scandals to hit China. In recent years, the country’s food safety issues have included cases of tainted pork, milk, eggs, and infant formula.
[Top image via AlexK100/Wikimedia Commons]