More than 30,000 tonnes of chicken feet laced with hydrogen peroxide were seized by authorities in Zhejiang province – in the latest wide-reaching food scandal to emerge in mainland China.
Police said 35 business operators had been selling the goods – found soaking in hydrogen peroxide to keep the chicken feet white and fresh-looking – to more than 10 provinces including Shandong, Hunan, Zhejiang, Hubei and Liaoning, news portal thepaper.cn reported.
Chicken feet are a delicacy in China and some parts of Asia.
Hydrogen peroxide, a colourless liquid often used for disinfection and processing food, causes vomiting, mouth irritations as well as throat and stomach problems if consumed in unsafe amounts.
Police in Yongjia county in Zhejiang said 38 people were arrested in connection with the case and 11 more remain at large, Xinhua reported.
In a new twist to the investigation, the Yongjia police accused government officials from a county in neighbouring Anhui province of tipping off manufacturers involved in the peroxide-laced chicken feet operation, thepaper.cn said.
The police said one of the raids on suspected operations in Hexian county, Anhui, ended in failure in late March because local government officials leaked the raid’s details.
Meanwhile, workers and executives at the Hexian factory of chicken feet brand Yuweiyuan have fled and all the products were removed before police arrived, the news portal reported.
Police have alerted discipline inspectors in Hexian about officials allegedly leaking information about police raids, it said. The report did not reveal the names of the officials or their titles.
Evidence of poison-laced chicken feet was first discovered last September during a routine food safety check at a shop in Yongjia, Zhejiang.
A month later, two people were detained for producing the tainted goods in Jiangsu province.
In subsequent raids, police busted another nine companies for producing tainted chicken feet in Jiangsu, Anhui, Henan and Shandong, including some big brands, thepaper.cn reports.
Police said they were investigating some cases of brands using other disinfectants to process chicken feet, but did not give more details, the website said.
China has been stepping up efforts to improve public confidence in the country’s food industry, which have been rocked by scandals – sometimes resulting in deaths – involving shoddy production standards or hazardous ingredients, from tainted formula milk powder to rat meat being sold as lamb.
This year alone, police had cracked down on more than 11,000 cases of food and drug scandals, Hua Jingfeng, a deputy director of the Ministry of Public Security, told a forum on Monday, the China Youth Daily reports
But horrifying discoveries involving food manufacturers continue cropping up.
Just recently, prosecutors in Hainan province announced a series of unsafe food finds including chicken feet soaking in what authorities said was lye (or sodium hydroxide) to keep the goods’ white colour.