Mutton found to contain duck meat

Updated: 2013-05-28 01:18

(China Daily)

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Beijing's food safety and quality watchdog has responded to media reports that duck meat was found in mutton for sale in a local wholesale market, Beijing News reported on Monday.

The largest mutton and beef wholesale market, Xinfadi, in South Beijing's Fengtai district, was reported to have sold mutton mixed with duck meat.

The average price of sliced mutton is 56 yuan ($9.15) per kg. However, when sold to hot pot restaurants, the price went down to 20 yuan per kg.

Tests showed that the seller mixed the duck meat with mutton, according to the report.

The newspaper said that immediately after the media reports, the market was closed to address the situation, and Beijing's Administration for Industry and Commerce and the district animal health inspection conducted an investigation.

The administration's law enforcement team in the Fengtai district has started risk investigations to make sure sellers obey industry regulations, its official website said.

"Unlike previous food scandals, this case is not a problem of food safety. It is a problem of food quality and trust," said Fan Zhihong, a food safety expert at China Agricultural University.

Fan also said it is impossible to discern mutton from duck meat by routine checks that test fat content, protein content and meat tenderness.

"Only a DNA test using a polymerase chain reaction technology can tell the difference," she said. "But this is a very expensive testing procedure."

Due to the high cost of these tests, the quality of meat sold largely depends on self-regulation of the sellers, said Fan.

There has been an increase in public concern and a decrease of trust in the food industry since the Ministry of Public Security revealed on May 2 the details of a criminal gang in Jiangyin, Jiangsu province, that produced and sold fake mutton made from fox, mink and rat meat to agricultural markets.

Sixty-three people were arrested on suspicion of selling more than 10 million yuan worth of fake mutton over three years.

The fake meat was altered with gelatin, carmine, nitrate and other substances and sold in Shanghai and Jiangsu province, the ministry said.

In April, the State Council's food safety committee released a notice that demanded an in-depth overhaul of meat products and enhanced supervision of meat quality, Xinhua News Agency reported.

On May 13, Premier Li Keqiang also urged strict market supervision and harsh penalties to ensure food safety, after recent scandals involving adulterated mutton.

Despite efforts, the market is still not well regulated.

"An efficient tip-off system is also of key importance," Fan said.

The current process for filing a complaint is not a smooth one due to the many departments involved, she added.