China’s Ministry of Public Security has announced 904 arrests in a three-month crackdown on “meat-related crimes”. From Xinhua:
The ministry said since Jan. 25, police had uncovered 382 cases involving meat-related offenses, and seized more than 20,000 tonnes of illegal products.
[…] In Wuxi, in East China’s Jiangsu Province, suspects made fake mutton from fox, mink and rat by adding chemicals. The products were sold to markets and the suspects made more than 10 million yuan ($1.62 million) from the illegal activities.
In Southwest China’s Guizhou Province, police in March busted two meat processing and selling dens and arrested six suspects.
According to an initial investigation, the suspects had been using hydrogen peroxide solution to process chicken claws since July 2011. With an output of 300 kg per day, suspects made more than 4 million yuan in profits.
Other cases involved the sale of lamb which, though genuine, was laden with lethal quantities of pesticide, and other cases of diseased animal carcasses sold for meat. An earlier crackdown on these sales bore some of the blame—along with overcrowding—for the infamous flotilla of 16,000 dead pigs that descended on Shanghai in March, as dead animals were dumped into rivers instead of onto the black market. Such unintended consequences are not the only difficulties facing food safety authorities, as The New York Times’ Chris Buckley explained:
China’s prime minister since March, Li Keqiang, has said that improving food safety was a priority — one of the main grievances of ordinary citizens that he has said his government would tackle.
But similar vows by his predecessor, Wen Jiabao, ran up against inadequate resources, buck-passing and muddle among rival agencies, and protectionism by local officials, said Mao Shoulong, a professor of public policy at Renmin University in Beijing, in an interview.
“The United States and Europe can’t eradicate these problems either [as this year’s horsemeat scandal demonstrated], but they are even more complicated in China,” said Mr. Mao, who has studied food and pharmaceutical safety regulation.
“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,” he said. “The government’s efforts need to catch up with the scale and complexity of the problems.”
On the practical front, Foreign Policy offered five tips for identifying rat meat, including “1. It smells like rat” and “2. It tastes like rat.” The Guardian’s impressively balanced coverage included, alongside its report on the arrests, a translated guide to spotting fake mutton on one hand and video instructions for upgrading lamb to “beef” on the other:
For fake mutton, the streaks of white and red meat are separate. The white is white, and the red is red. The white and red streaks in real mutton are interlocking. The streaks are very distinct, and look very natural.
The best way to tell whether the mutton is fake is to thaw out the slices. After they’ve been thawed, fake mutton slices immediately revert back to their original shape. Lets look at the following pictures. After the fake mutton is thawed, the red and white streaks come apart at the slightest touch.
Rectified.name‘s Will Moss also offered some marketing advice for prospective meat pirates:
@comradewong Also: Why just sell it as lamb? Why not market it as “capybara” or something and triple the price?
— Will Moss (@imagethief) May 3, 2013
The Ministry of Public Security acknowledges that the food safety war must continue, with one official saying that it will now start to focus on the dairy industry. Fears over the quality of domestic milk products following a 2008 melamine scandal have pushed demand for imported baby milk formula to bizarre heights, emptying store shelves from New Zealand to the Netherlands. Bloomberg reported last week that Hong Kong authorities are arresting more people for exceeding their milk formula allowance than for smuggling heroin, though as South China Morning Post’s Eldes Tran pointed out, this may be comparing (fake) apples with (tainted) oranges.
In any case, Chinese milk products are both cheaper and more nutritious than foreign ones, according to a recent study sponsored by the China Dairy Industry Association. Indeed, the box office record-shattering Chinese cut of Iron Man 3 revealed that the eponymous hero relies on Inner Mongolian Gu Li Duo milk drink to “revitalize his energy.”