The horse meat scandal spread through Europe like wildfire in early 2013, and now consumers in China may have even more to worry about. Officials were horrified to discover $1.6 million worth of rat meat being passed off as lamb, and police have apprehended 63 suspects who are being accused of selling rat meat for public consumption. The rat meat scandal is China’s latest food safety debacle – previously a citizen died from eating pesticides in lamb, and thousands of dead pigs were found dumped into a river near Shanghai.

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China’s Ministry of Public Security announced yesterday that they’ve caught traders who have passed off rat, fox and mink meat as mutton – in addition to buying and selling other uninspected meats. The rat meat was mixed with gelatin, red food dye and nitrates and sold as lamb mutton in both Shanghai and Jiangsu Province to restaurants, grocery stores and distributors. Authorities don’t know for sure whether the suspects got the rats from the street or raised them.

This unbelievably disgusting news comes as Chinese authorities are attempting to crack down on the illegal trade of tainted, uninspected and toxic meats in a nationwide push that started in January. Prime Minister Li Keqiang says he has made food safety a top priority since March, and has since uncovered 904 cases of suspects selling fake, diseased or toxic meat – in the past four months alone. Since January, 1,721 illegal factories, workshops and shops have been busted and disbanded.

Cases of diseased meats or meats injected with toxins have caused numerous fatalities across the country. Chinese officials can’t guarantee food safety until the investigations are complete, which has caused many people to give up eating meat for the time being.

Via NY Times

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