Rat Meat Sold as Lamb Stirs Food Safety Concerns in China

A piece of lamb meat is shown in this file photo.Wikimedia Commons

Lamb meat has been disguised and sold as lamb in China, according to the latest food scandal in the country.

Police have cracked down on a criminal ring that illegally operated in Shanghai that bought meat from fox, mink, and rats and processed it with gelatin and other additives before selling it off as lamb to third party vendors.

It is not known how the illegal traders got hold of the rats and other creatures being disguised as mutton. 904 suspects were arrested in over 380 cases in the three-month crackdown.

The meat was sold to farmers' markets in Shanghai and Jiangsu province. Rat meat being passed off as mutton is the latest food scandal to hit China as the country prepares to make harsher punishment for those selling unsafe food products. In the past, tainted formula milk and other unsafe products have hit the headlines.

China's penal code forbids unsafe and poisonous food and now the sale of food with excessive chemicals or meat from animals that have died of unknown causes or diseased will be considered a crime.

The Supreme People's Court of China has prosecuted 2,088 people in food safety cases between 2010-2012. However, the sale of poisonous food has rise in recent years, with the figure down to just 80 in 2010 but to a staggering 861 in 2012.

"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," said Mao Shoulong, a professor of public policy at Renmin University in Beijing . "The government's efforts need to catch up with the scale and complexity of the problems."

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