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Rat meat passes for lamb in Shanghai

Posting in Cities

Unabashed rat. No cover up here. This is a plate of rat meat with vegetables served proudly in Yangshuo, Guangxi, China. Unfortunately, recipes are not always as out in the open.

Sorry to sound like the Shanghai food report today, but while writing up the coffee story I posted earlier, news broke that at least one purveyor in the city has been selling rat meat as lamb.

Makes Europe's minced horse scandal sound tame by comparison.

The good news is that the police are onto it. The South China Morning Post reports:

If you have ordered lamb or mutton for hotpot in Shanghai over the last four years, you might have been served rat, fox or mink, the Ministry of Public Security said on Thursday.

"Since 2009, the suspect, surnamed Wei, has bought foxes, minks, rats and other uninspected meat products in Shandong," the ministry said in a press release on its website.

"After adding gelatine, carmine, nitrate and other substances, he sold the meat as fake lamb rolls [for hot pot] at farmers' markets in Jiangsu and Shanghai."

Wei's organisation was raided in Jiangsu and Shanghai in February, which led to the arrest of 63 suspects and the seizure of 10 tons of meat and additives.

Police estimates that Wei's sales over the last four years have reached a value of 10 million yuan (HK$12.6 million).

The story has strong parallels with the horse meat saga. Just as horse is acceptable to eat in some cultures, so is rat, including in China, Ghana and many other countries. But many people will find it outrageous to pass off rat as lamb to unsuspecting customers.

I'll leave it for you to ruminate all the social and business implications of this unfortunate occurrence.

I will however whimsically suggest this business opportunity: How about an app that tests the contents of your burger/meat pie/hotpot for beef, horse, rat, cat, salamander or whatever else it is you might suspect or desire. For an extra fee, an in-app feature could even help you find the nearest outlet and locate your favorite sauce.

We're always thinking innovation here at SmartPlanet.

Photo: Hector Garcia via Wikimedia

Meanwhile on the beverage trail:

— By on May 2, 2013, 11:12 PM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure