July 9, 2013
China seizes expired meat from Vietnamese smuggling group
An illegal food store in southern China was raided by police authorities who have exposed tonnes of rancid decades-old chicken feet being 'processed' to be sold to unassuming customers.
The decaying chicken feet, some dating back to 1967, were being 'cleaned up', plumped up and whitened at the 'foul-smelling' plant using bleach and other chemicals, before being prepared for sale.
Police, who raided the criminal operation in May, said they also found beef tripe, cartilage and other out-of-date animal organs - all of which had been smuggled across the border from neighbouring Vietnam. In total 20 tonnes of illegal meat were seized.
According to local media, the gang, based in Nanning, the capital city of south China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region was able to make up to RMB16,000 (US$2,609) profit on every tonne of the putrid meat, by injecting it with chemicals, increasing its weight by 50%.
Li Jianmin, from the local Public Security Bureau said, "The entire processing facility had a fishy and foul smell. You just couldn't stand it after one or two minutes."
The stomach-churning finding is not the first to be exposed in the area. Police in Guangxi, along China's border with Vietnam, have stepped up anti-smuggling operations over the last year and have raided seven illegal food processors.
According to local police, there were huge profits to be made from smuggling foods considered waste in other countries into China, where they are thought of as delicacies.
Criminal gangs have been difficult to catch, however, because illegal meats are often hidden among other produce such as fruit and vegetables, and lorry drivers are often bribed to deny any knowledge of it. Among the seized meats over the last 12 months, police have found hundreds of bears' paws - another bizarre food sought after by Chinese chefs.
Two raids in recent months have uncovered first 231 bear paws in an attempted smuggling case from Mongolia, and more recently 141 bear paws were seized. Two Russians were arrested in Inner Mongolia in connection with the first case, which valued the paws at RMB2.8 million (US$456,500).
According to local media, smuggling remains a bone of contention for both China and its southern neighbour. The two countries failed to come to an agreement on cross-border trade last month during Vietnamese president Truong Tan Sang's state visit to China, where he met with his counterpart Xi Jiping.
Media reports from both countries, which have been involved in rising tensions over territories in the South China Sea, lay the blame on the their respective governments for illegal foods entering their markets.
Vietnamese press claim chicken, sturgeon, fruit and vegetables from China have been undercutting local market prices. While illegal out-of-date produce is creating a black market in China.