We have all likely heard stories of less-than-reputable food vendors who’ve attempted to sell perishable goods that are slightly past their expiration date to gain an advantage in competitive markets, but the following story from five years ago takes that sort of corner-cutting to a disgustingly unhealthy extreme.
In a July 2013 article from the South China Morning Post, it was reported that Chinese police had busted an illegal food storage site in the Guangxi region that was operated by a gang of smugglers who secretly brought tons of chicken feet, beef tripe and other odd foodstuffs into China from Vietnam.
Unfortunately, much of the estimated 20 tons of seized frozen meat was expired, and some of it dated all the way back to 1967, meaning it was 46-years-old at the time.
“The entire processing facility had a fishy and foul smell,” stated Li Jianmin of the local Public Security Bureau. “You just couldn’t stand it after one or two minutes.”
According to The U.K. Telegraph, Jianmin described how the expired meat was processed in the illicit facility with harsh chemicals, including hydrogen peroxide, in order to “kill bacteria” and “prolong the expiry date” and to also make the feet “look white and big.”
That process transformed roughly 1 kg of expired chicken feet into what appeared to be 1.5 kg of seemingly fresh chicken feet, which enabled the smugglers to obtain roughly $2,650 in profit per ton.
As for the expired chicken feet that were made to appear as though they were fresh, The Telegraph made a point to note that when they were actually fresh meat, Chairman Mao was in power in China, the U.S. was embroiled in the Vietnam War, the Beatles had just released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and The Doors and Pink Floyd had just released their debut albums.
Nor was that the only crazy food story to come out of China that year, as The Telegraph reported that a restaurant in Shanghai had been exposed for selling customers meat from rats, minks and foxes that was labeled as lamb.
Two crawfish restaurants in Shanghai also had to be closed down after it was revealed that the chefs had been adding poppy seeds to their soups in a bid to get their customers addicted to their dishes.
The South China Morning Post also reported that expired chicken feet weren’t the only disgusting foodstuffs smuggled across the border into China, as police had also made several busts involving the unauthorized import of bear paws (not to be confused with bear claws), which would be cooked in such a manner as to cover up the rotten smell of the expired meat.
According to a post from Foreign Policy in January 2016, the smuggling of expired meat into China was a recurring problem.
That week police had caught a gang of smugglers who had avoided inspection of their 20 tons of illicit meat by crossing the border in a nature preserve where China meets Laos and Burma.
In 2014, police had arrested some 38 members of a smuggling ring who were caught in possession of roughly 30,000 tons of chicken feet that had been processed in peroxide.
In March of 2015, Chinese authorities seized 133 tons of smuggled beef and chicken feet that had been brought in through another nature preserve in the Yunnan province.
It is worth pointing out that fresh chicken feet are considered a delicacy throughout much of China and Asia, so much so that China imported roughly $170 million worth of chicken feet from the U.S. in 2014… which should help explain why smugglers are so intent on risking violation of the law to smuggle the product in to sell, even if it is expired.
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