Authorities in Fujian province have detained two men for allegedly processing and selling the carcasses of diseased pigs, according to the South China Morning Post:
Police in Nanjing county, Zhangzhou, detained a 44-year-old woman surnamed Lin and a 33-year-old man, busting an illegal operation in which 40 tonnes of pork was allegedly sold in three months, according to the Strait Metropolis Daily, a newspaper affiliated with the propaganda department in Fujian.
The report added that both suspects were hired by the county government to properly dispose of pigs killed by a viral disease called pseudorabies and by the highly infectious porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, also known as blue-ear pig disease.
Lin, the prime suspect, allegedly saw potential for profit and began buying dead pigs cheaply from local farmers at a price of 10 to 80 cents per half kilogram, as well as collecting dead pigs dumped on the sides of roads.
The business reportedly grew so big that they leased a refrigerated warehouse. In just three months they allegedly sold 40 tonnes of such meat to processing plants in Guangdong, Hunan and Jiangxi .
Some netizens said the two suspects should receive the death penalty, according to TIME’s Yue Wang. A China Daily report claimed that police are investigating how the pork was transported and who bought it:
Lin began to produce pork products in August using the pigs she collected and made huge profits. In January, Wu joined her business. They built a freezer compartment that could store up to six tons of pork, according to police.
They also hired three workers from Henan province to cut the dead pigs and package the carcasses.
The two collected dead pigs that local residents discarded and purchased them from farmers.
They were caught after Zhangzhou police received a report in March that someone was storing sick pigs in a freezer at Xiexin Frozen Foods.
The report comes less than a week after China’s Ministry of Public Security announced that it had arrested more than 900 people for similar “meat-related crimes.” And in a separate crackdown, authorities in Shanghai raided a wholesale market and seized lamb meat which lacked proper labeling. Reuters reported that eight cooked food stores and a hotpot restaurant were ordered to shut down in connection with the incident:
Shanghai’s food safety office said it raided wet markets and seized about 70kg of fake mutton from the cooked food stores.
The stores bought “frozen mutton” from a Jiangsu businessman surnamed Wei, who was arrested earlier for selling rat, mink and fox meat.
The arrested person is a key member of a 63-member gang in Wuxi. The gang bought raw meat cheaply in Shandong and added gelatin nitrate salt and colouring to make it look and taste like frozen rolled mutton.
The Shanghai authorities said they were taking samples of other products in the stores and would severely punish offenders.
A statement from the Shanghai Municipal Food Safety Committee claimed that authorities were conducting DNA tests to determine the composition of the meat, according to The Wall Street Journal:
Inspectors found invoices in the warehouse stating that the product had been sold to local restaurants, the statement said, including Mongolian-hot-pot chain Little Sheep Group Ltd., acquired by Yum Brands Inc. in 2011.
Yum on Monday said it doesn’t have records of these invoices and hasn’t been contacted by the agency.
Yum on its official blogging site that Little Sheep doesn’t purchase the lamb brand that Shanghai authorities are investigating. “After thorough examination, we’ve concluded that the merchant is not one of Little Sheep’s suppliers and does not match any of our purchasing records,” the company said. Yum said the vendor is “not an approved supplier.”
“We are working with the government to get to the bottom of it,” a spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. “We have very high food quality standards and we will take swift and immediate action if any supplier has violated these.”
Tea Leaf Nation’s Minami Funakoshi wrote Sunday that Chinese web users expressed outrage at the notion that fake meat had been served at such a popular hot pot chain:
“This is absolutely nauseating!” wrote many users, attaching images of vomiting emoticons to their comments. “Just imagine—you think you’re eating some lamb skewers, but what you are actually eating is some furry rats. How will I dare eat lamb again?” lamented user @无锡24小时.
Sadly, this incident is not an anomaly but part of a larger trend of food safety crimes in China. A widely circulated image on Weibo lists ten food hazard scandals that have surfaced in the past few years. Fake beef, fake lamb, toxic chicken feet, diseased ducks—almost all types of commonly consumed meat made the list.
“The dead pigs made people taste pork soup [in their tap water]. The emergence of H7N9 virus made us shrink back into our own homes. The head of the twelve Chinese zodiac have now finally risen, too…Give us a reason to eat without worry,” challenged @无锡微生活 in the image mentioned above. The tweet has since been deleted.