Shanghai shops closed in fake mutton scandal

Shanghai (China Daily/ANN) - Nine cooked food stores that sold fake mutton in Shanghai have been temporarily or permanently closed and 70 kilograms of fake mutton has been destroyed, Shanghai's food safety authority said on Monday.

The Ministry of Public Security revealed on Thursday 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 suspects were arrested on suspicion of selling more than 10 million yuan ($1.6 million) worth of fake mutton over three years.

The suspects passed the meat off as mutton by adding gelatine, carmine, nitrate and other substances and sold it in Shanghai and Jiangsu province, it said.

The news caused a scare among residents. Over the weekend Shanghai's food safety, public security and industrial and commercial departments worked together to investigate where the fake mutton was sent.

On Monday, Shanghai authorities released a statement saying the stores involved have been checked and the food destroyed.

The gang sold the fake mutton door-to-door to nine private cooked food stores in Shanghai, the statement said.

More than 70 kg of fake mutton has been destroyed. It sold at 22 to 24 yuan per kilogram, about double the cost, according to the statement.

So far, one store has closed and the other eight have been required to suspend business and rectify the situation.

Eight of the business operators have been arraigned, and two are awaiting trial on bail.

Shanghai's industrial and commercial administration is still examining the other food in these stores.

A Shanghai TV program reported that a hotpot outlet in Zhoupu of Shanghai's Nanhui district is suspected of selling mutton mixed with meat of questionable origin.

The DNA test by the Pudong district's food safety watchdog showed that "mutton" sold by P-Shang Dolar Hotpot outlet was mixed with duck and other meat.

But officials said the incident has no connection with the case in Jiangsu province.

"The hotpot outlet in Zhoupu has been shut down on suspicion of selling fake food. It is being further investigated by local police," said Yang Zhenyu, head of the food safety watchdog of Pudong district.

The meat slices sold by the outlet came from the Xinpin Wholesale Market on Caobao Road where officials from the Shanghai Food Safety Office found a large amount of similar mutton in a warehouse.

Local media reported that the suspected mutton may have been sold to well-known hotpot restaurants such as Little Sheep, Dai Mei and Macao Hotpot.

Gu Zhenhua, a spokesman for the Shanghai Food Safety Office, said authorities are testing the mutton to check whether it contains other kinds of meat and whether it meets national standards.

The results are expected later this week.

The hotpot outlet is a franchisee of Jiangsu P-Shang Group.

The group issued a statement on Monday saying it was rescinding the Zhoupu hotpot outlet's franchise.

"The outlet failed to obey the group regulation and bought raw materials by itself," it said.

The group said it will investigate the outlet's responsibility in harming the group's image.

Hua Wenjing contributed to the story.

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