In a food safety crackdown that coincides with a bird flu outbreak, Chinese police uncovered a crime ring that was dealing in something ever more shocking than drugs - rat meat.
Authorities have arrested 904 suspects who are believed to have passed off more than $1 million in rat and small mammal meat as mutton. The Ministry of Public Security said in a statement on its website that these people were arrested for selling and producing fake or tainted meat products.
In its statement, the ministry said that despite the work of “responsible officials” and police, "food safety crimes are still prominent, and new situations are emerging with new characteristics.”
One suspect, with the surname of Wei, was able to sell rat, fox and mink meat at markets in the Shanghai and Jiangsu provinces by doctoring up the meat with additives, Yahoo News.
After the rat meat ring was exposed, Internet users logged on to the popular microblogging site Sina Weibo to express their concerns. "Rats? How disgusting. Everything we eat is poison," a user wrote.
During the nationwide crackdown, law enforcement officials confiscated more than 20,000 metric tons (22.046 tons) of fake or inferior meat products.
Problems with unsafe or unsanitary food are common in China.
After an outbreak of the H7N9 bird flu virus in China, sales of poultry dropped by 80 percent in areas of eastern China where the bird flu has hit the hardest. Experts say that cooked chicken is perfectly safe.
In another incident, more than 16,000 rotting pigs were found floating in one of Shanghai's main water sources. Police have also recently confiscated more than 15 metric tons of tainted pork.