A Jiangsu gang was caught passing off rat, fox and mink meat as mutton, just one of hundreds of cases of meat-related offences uncovered by the Ministry of Public Security recently.
The ministry said the 63-member gang in Wuxi bought the raw meat cheaply in Shandong province and had set up 50 places to process it, adding gelatin, nitrate salt and colouring, so that it looked and tasted like frozen rolled mutton.
It sold the fake mutton to wet market stallholders in Shanghai, Jiangsu and other neighbouring provinces between 2009 and February this year. Ten tonnes of raw meat was seized and the suspects had made more than 10 million yuan (HK$12.5 million) in sales.
The ministry released a statement on its website on Thursday saying it had busted 382 cases of meat-related offences since launching a crackdown on January 25, with 904 people arrested and more than 20,000 tonnes of illegal meat products seized across the country.
In Liaoning, a gang had sold more than 20,000 diseased and dead chickens to restaurants since 2007, disguising the putrefaction by adding strong spices and roasting the chicken to give it a smoky taste.
In another high-profile case in Guizhou province, police busted two dens processing and selling meat and arrested six people. The suspects had used hydrogen peroxide solution to process chicken claws. With an output of 300kg per day, the gang had made a profit of more than four million yuan.
"Rat meat? Mutton? I could not feel any sicker than this," one internet user wrote.
Shenzhen resident Wendy Liu asked why the authorities had so much trouble stamping out such crimes, despite launching crackdowns every year.
"Is it too easy to produce fake meat? Or is it too hard and expensive to run a legal business in China?" she asked. "The government should rethink the problem."
The authorities release plans to improve food safety every year, but the Ministry of Public Security said such cases were occurring frequently, with ever more shocking breaches exposed. It promised to target dairy products, edible oils, health supplements, meat and food additives.