A new food scandal in China has inspired renewed horror over the lack of food regulation there. At least 63 people have been arrested and accused of buying fox, mink, rat, and other meat products, dousing them in gelatin, red pigment and nitrates, and then selling the meat as lamb in Shanghai and adjacent Jiangsu province. The venture was paying well; they had sold about $1.6 million worth of meat before their arrest.

The situation is not only disturbing, but baffling as well. Where did so many rats come from?

Perhaps part of the answer is that some Chinese do enjoy eating rats. And the southern province of Guangdong, near Hong Kong, is famous for its rat dishes. They serve it roasted, braised, stewed or cooked into a soup. A Chinese saying is, “A rat equals three chickens in term of nutrition” and is thought to prevent balding and graying hair by some locals. 

I don’t think I am ready to try that cure yet.

So to some Chinese, eating rat meat is not the problem. The problem is deception. The Chinese people have had to deal with many problems with food quality — everything from meat being plumped with water illegally, to meat being sold from animals that died from disease, lamb meat that was so heavily laced with pesticides that a man died after eating it, and milk powder adulterated with melamine which put thousands of children at risk, and killed at least six.

I hope for the sake of the Chinese people that these issues are addressed. And while I would hope that there are more stringent regulations in place to protect Americans from imported Chinese food, it certainly gives you pause when buying food products from China. Yet one more reason to buy local food.

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