SHANGHAI, May 6 (UPI) -- Chinese consumers are buying less mutton from produce markets over fears it may turn out to be rat, fox or mink meat, a meat supplier says.
Last weekend, authorities raided a criminal ring that allegedly had been selling the uninspected, fake mutton -- a lamb product -- for more than three years, China Daily reported.
Police arrested 63 people in the raid and said the operation, which was based in Jiangsu province, made about $1.6 million while it was running the scam.
Authorities said the criminal ring dressed rat, fox, and mink meat with gelatine, carmine, nitrate and other substances to make it look like mutton.
The Shanghai food safety commission office said it is investigating how widely the meat was distributed.
Families, meanwhile, say they are no longer buy mutton, used in traditional meals such as hotpot, in fears that the fake stuff could be dangerous.
"These are really hard times for a housewife. Fewer options in what to cook is no big deal. The real scare is that after poultry, pork and mutton, you don't know what meat will be uncovered next as a public health hazard nor what is really safe to eat," said Zhang Jinmei, a mother of two, referring the poultry potentially being infected with the deadly H7N9 bird fluvirus and the more than 10,000 pig carcasses were found floating in Shanghai river in March.
"After the scandal, we stopped getting new supplies from a wholesale market in Baoshan district," a meat merchant in Shanghai said Sunday. "Mutton was less popular than pork or beef. Since the scandal, even fewer customers ask for it."