Chinese Police Arrest Suspects in Rat-for-Mutton Crime Ring

Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Customers look on as butchers prepare cuts of meat at a market in Shanghai. Close

Customers look on as butchers prepare cuts of meat at a market in Shanghai.

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Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Customers look on as butchers prepare cuts of meat at a market in Shanghai.

Chinese authorities busted a criminal operation that sold rat, fox and mink meat as mutton in Shanghai and neighboring Jiangsu province for more than 10 million yuan ($1.62 million).

Authorities apprehended a person surnamed Wei suspected of selling disguised rat meat and small mammals treated with additives and chemicals in farmers markets since 2009, the Ministry of Public Security said in a statement on its website dated yesterday. More than 50 illegal dens were busted and 63 people detained by police during the crackdown in February, according to the statement.

The arrests come as new Chinese Premier Li Keqiang pledged on March 17 to improve consumer safety by regulating food quality and environmental protection with an “iron fist.” China elevated its food safety agency to ministry-level in March as part of a nationwide push to improve food safety, after recent reports on violations sparked public outrage and increased scrutiny on the industry.

An outbreak of H7N9 bird flu has killed 26 people since March, prompting authorities to shut down live poultry markets and cull birds.

China Central Television reported on Dec. 18 a former supplier for Yum! Brands Inc. (YUM) was indiscriminately feeding antibiotics and growth hormones to their chickens. In March, the Shanghai government pulled more than 10,000 dead pigs from the Huangpu river, a water source for the city.

Police arrested 904 people and seized more than 20,000 metric tons of illegal products in meat-related crimes over three months, the official Xinhua News Agency said May 2, citing the Ministry of Public Security.

Crimes included injecting meat with water and selling diseased or chemically treated pork or chicken, according to the public security statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Liza Lin in Shanghai at llin15@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Stephanie Wong at swong139@bloomberg.net; Gregory Turk at gturk2@bloomberg.net

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