Today in [Honey Boo Boo dry-heaving gif], it turns out that delicious lamb gyro you're eating might actually be ground-up, dyed rat butts sculpted into lamblike meat-shapes! Eat up! If you're in eastern China, that is, and you're in the habit of purchasing very, very tiny pieces of "mutton" from meat-smuggling confidence men. China's no stranger to food safety issues, but this rat-meat fiasco might be the literal worst (as far as visceral soul-horking goes).
Via the NYTimes:
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.
“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?”
Now, I'm not opposed to consuming unconventional meats—as I said before, I would eat the fuck out of some horse—so I suppose I would give dead rat a nibble. But the issue here isn't the objective grossness of rat meat (I've watched enough Andrew Zimmern to know that plenty of people around the world eat and enjoy rodents—can rat really be that different from some crispy American squirrel?), it's the fact that the meat is unregulated, untested, stuffed with poison, and then misrepresented to the public. It's an ethical travesty that almost certainly preys upon the most vulnerable Chinese consumers—people without the privilege of being picky about the meat they buy. It's inhumane and cruel and fucking gross.
A few other greatest hits of Chinese food safety: beef jerky "swarming with bacteria," pork injected with water and other additives to increase its weight, diseased animals being sold for food, "8.8 tons of 'toxic chicken feet,'" a lamb carcass so tainted with pesticides that someone died after ingesting it, used cooking oil being siphoned out of the garbage and repackaged to consumers, and, of course, your classic melamine milk powder and flu-riddled duck blood. Chinese officials say they're committed to cleaning up the nation's food production system and crack down on meat smugglers, but food safety advocates don't seem too hopeful:
“The United States and Europe can’t eradicate these problems either, but they are even more complicated in China,” said Mr. Mao, who has studied food and pharmaceutical safety regulation.
“Chinese food production has become larger scale and more technological, but the problems emerging also involve using more sophisticated technology to beat regulators and cheat consumers,” he said. “The government’s efforts need to catch up with the scale and complexity of the problems.”
Images via Getty.