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China new food scandal: rat, fox and mink meat passed off as lamb and beef

China is in shock following a new food scandal, involving rat, fox and mink meat being sold as lamb and beef.

After milk and baby formula laced with melanin, chicken claws bleached with hydrogen peroxide solution, steroid-spiked pork, glow-in-the-dark meat, recycled cooking oil collected from sewers, and rice contaminated with heavy metals, the Chinese have to now contend with this latest scandal.

Chinese officials arrested 904 people who allegedly sold adulterated and mislabeled meat products, according to a statement released by China’s ministry of public security on their website last Thursday.

The arrests came after a three-month crackdown where the police uncovered 382 meat-related offenses after the "rat meat" appeared in markets in the Jiangsu province and in Shanghai.

China’s growing demand for meat has probably prompted criminal organizations to try to cash in on this growing market at the expense and health of the rest of the population. It was estimated that about $1.6 million of adulterated meat had been sold.

The police also confiscated more than 20,000 tons of fake or inferior meat products after breaking up illegal food plants in the nationwide operation, where they found additives, like gelatin, red pigment and nitrates needed to modify the appearance of the meat to pass it off as beef and mutton.

China's Supreme court has issued guidelines calling for harsher punishmentfor making and selling unsafe food. The guidelines will list as crimes specific acts such as the sale of food excessively laced with chemicals or made from animals that have died from disease or unknown causes.

Negligent government food inspectors will also targeted for criminal punishment.

The supreme court said 2,088 people have been prosecuted in 2010-2012 in 1,533 food safety cases. The number of such cases has grown exponentially in the past years. Chinese courts prosecuted 861 cases of poisonous food in 2012, compared to 80 cases in 2010.

"The situation is really grave and has indeed caused great harm to the people," Pei Xianding, a supreme court judge. "We cannot tolerate it any longer. We must punish the criminals severely, or we cannot answer to our people."

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