China’s Latest Food Scandal – Rotting 40-Year-Old Meat For Dinner Tables

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Jun 24 2015
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When a Chinese food inspector, Zhang Tao, from Hunan province opened the door of a compartment, he nearly threw up due to overwhelming stench from meat which could be as old as 40 years. Amazingly, the food had begun to thaw, suggesting that it was getting readied to be served on dinner tables and consumed by unsuspected customers.

China Smuggled 40-Year-Old Meat Scandal - Customers at Dinner Tables

In yet another mega food scandal in China, local authorities have discovered 100,000 tonnes of smuggled frozen meat. Estimated to be worth about 3 billion Yuan (US$483 million; £300 million; RM1.81 billion), the frozen meat was seized in a nationwide crackdown. About 800 tonnes were seized from Hunan province alone.


China was notorious for its food scandals – ranging from milk contaminated with industrial chemical melamine, to donkey meat tainted with fox DNA. Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, this rotten meat scandal hits the headlines. So far, authorities had busted 21 people from two different gangs involved in the smuggled meat activities.

China Smuggled 40-Year-Old Meat Scandal - Officials Inspecting Meat

The 14 different crackdowns across the country found smuggled pork, beef, chicken wings and feet, duck necks, apparently bought very cheaply in foreign countries before being shipped through Hong Kong and taken to Vietnam and finally smuggled into mainland China, without declaring it with customs officials. The beef were believed to have originated from Brazil and India.

China Smuggled 40-Year-Old Meat Scandal - Meat Beef from Brazil

Although meat can last for a long time if continuously frozen, it wasn’t the case with the Chinese smugglers. In order to save cost, food was often transported in ordinary rather than refrigerated vehicles, sometimes for more than 12 hours. The repeated thawing and refrozen process before reaching customers makes the meat eventually become breeding ground for dangerous bacteria and viruses.

China Smuggled 40-Year-Old Meat Scandal - Decades Old Meat

According to state newspaper the China Daily, officials from Guangxi, a southern region bordering Vietnam, found meat dating back to the 1970s, as displayed on the date stamps. What this means is the meat had already been smuggled into China when the country’s founding father – Mao Zedong – was probably still alive and kicking. And those meat is still available till today.


Customs officials also found other parts which were rotten and decomposing. Obviously, this is the largest case involving smuggled frozen meat products in the Hunan province’s history. Besides being distributed to retailers, supermarkets and restaurants in Guangdong, Sichuan and other provinces, some of the meat was sold on the Internet.

China Smuggled 40-Year-Old Meat Scandal - As Old As Mao Zedong

Interestingly, many meat retailers have set up profiles on Taobao, the online shopping website owned by Alibaba, offering local and imported meat, often promising same-day delivery. Some even claim to be selling beef imported from the United States, even though such beef has been barred from the Chinese mainland since 2003, due to mad cow disease.


Here’s a question – why the 40-year-old meat hadn’t been sold after all these decades, considering the high demand for meat in China? According to the research arm of Dutch lender Rabobank, China is already the world’s largest meat consumer by volume. Perhaps the smugglers have simply forgotten about their meat inventory after all these years (*grin*).

China Smuggled 40-Year-Old Meat Scandal - Selling Meat at Market

One has to remember that back in the 1970s, there wasn’t any computer nor smartphone to keep track of goods and inventories. Or it could simply because the smugglers kept the meat as a way to hedge against a sudden huge demand during the Mao Zedong administration. Nonetheless, this is more disgusting than sellers passing off rat meat as mutton in 2013.


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