A Chinese crackdown on rat meat being sold as lamb nets 63 arrests

BEIJING — Feasting on strips of mutton dropped in a simmering pot is a popular dining pastime in China. But what if the meat served is actually rat?

That may be on the minds of diners after the latest stomach-churning food scandal to hit the country.

Authorities said that traders bought rat, fox, mink and other uninspected meats and, after adding red coloring and other chemicals, sold them as lamb rolls for markets in Shanghai and neighboring Jiangsu province.

Police arrested 63 suspects and seized 10 tons of meats and additives, but not before the operation had sold about $1.6 million worth of fake meat over the past four years.

The Ministry of Public Security posted the news on the Internet in an apparent move to highlight the government's latest campaign to crack down on food crimes, which have plagued the nation and left many Chinese wondering what is safe to eat.

Among meats, there aren't many options left.

Thousands of dead pigs recently floating in a river near Shanghai sparked fears of merchants selling dead carcasses. An outbreak of bird flu has many diners avoiding chicken and duck. And stories of tainted meats and other foods keep rolling in.

The fake lamb scheme in eastern China was among 382 meat-related offenses uncovered during a three-month national campaign that began in late January, the ministry said. Police have arrested 904 suspects, closed 1,721 factories and seized about 20,000 tons of fake, diseased or otherwise adulterated meat.

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