Friday, May 3, 2013

Chinese food crimes: Beef and mutton were actually fox, mink and rat

Chinese food crimes: Beef and mutton were actually fox, mink and rat, Imagine visiting your favorite market in Shanghai and buying meat for a delicious Chinese beef or mutton dish. Now imagine that the "beef" and "mutton" is actually rat, fox or mink meat. The skin crawls at the thought, but Shanghai and Jiangsu markets have been selling mystery meat for at least four years.

Officials started an investigation and sting operation after the floating dead pig scandal erupted earlier this year. Between January and now, police have arrested 904 suspects and closed 1,721 factories.

The crimes-against-meat operation also confiscated 20,000 tons of fake, diseased or adulterated meat. According to a May 3 article in the LA Times, a combination of pig dumping and lethal bird flu has driven meat eaters away from pork and fowl. Finding other forms of safe, healthy protein is now an unhealthy, toxic gamble.

This is the third major food scandal in eastern China this year. Almost 20,000 dead pigs were found floating in a river that supplies drinking water to Shanghai. The pigs came from Jiaxing city and led to a massive crackdown.

Four people were arrested this month for selling dead pigs to slaughterhouses. In March, nearly 3,000 dead ducks were dumped in the Nanhe river. Although there is no scientific connection, many wonder how the H7N9 bird flu came so soon afterward. H7N9 is one of the most lethal viruses in recorded history.

Meat is not the only substituted or adulterated food sold in China's markets. According to a May 3 New York Times article, there are reports of fruit and vegetables with disease, toxins, banned dyes and unhealthy preservatives.

Mao Shoulong is a professor of public policy at Renmin University in Beijing. He has studied food and drug safety regulation. In an interview he said, “The United States and Europe can’t eradicate these problems either, but they are even more complicated in China.”

China's new leadership vowed to clear up food quality and safety as one of the people's top grievances. This may not be easy as officials have inadequate resources. Rival agencies pass the buck and make progress difficult. And then there is the issue of corruption and protectionism by local officials.

With issues like fake beef jerky, toxic chicken feet, pigs injected with water, and pesticide laden lamb meat, China has a long way to go before the nation's food can be trusted. Western nations cannot feel superior either.

The recent EU horse meat scandals have not been resolved. Sequestration budget cuts are guaranteed to hurt U.S. food regulation and import control efforts. As a result, the entire world can consider food safety a global issue that cannot be ignored.

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