“How many rats does it take to put together a sheep?” said one typically baffled and angry user of Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblog service that often acts as a forum for public venting. “Is it cheaper to raise rats than sheep? Or does it just not feel right unless you’re making fakes?”
In an announcement intended to show that the government is serious about improving food safety, the Ministry of Public Security said over the Internet on Thursday that the police had caught traders in eastern China who bought rat, fox and mink flesh and sold it as mutton. But that and other cases of meat smuggling, faking and adulteration that were also featured in Chinese newspapers and Web sites on Friday were unlikely to instill confidence in consumers already queasy over many reports about meat, fruit and vegetables laden with disease, toxins, banned dyes and preservatives.
Sixty-three people were arrested and are accused of “buying fox, mink and rat and other meat products that had not undergone inspection,” which they doused in gelatin, red pigment, and nitrates, and sold as mutton in Shanghai and adjacent Jiangsu Province for about $1.6 million, according to the ministry’s statement. The account did not explain how exactly the traders acquired the rats and other creatures.