The United States has imported food from China since we have been a country, beginning with tea.
Contamination has always been a problem. China lost the tea market to Japan and India because of quality issues.
Around 1900, when Petaluma was the center of western egg production, Chinese eggs were being imported to San Francisco for a penny for six dozen. My source -- Jack London, of all people -- did not mention contamination, but at that price there's reason to be suspicious.
An astonishing proportion of America's food now comes from China -- despite American agriculture's claims to be so efficient -- from apples to honey to dog food.
We are told by the free traders that this is good for consumers because competition is good, right? It's crap but, hey, it's cheap crap.
The latest Chinese food scandal has gotten minimal attention in the US press. The New York Times ran a skimpy story on May 3 based on a government press release and a couple of meaningless Chinaman-in-the-street quotes. Other papers did less, and the story of rat passing as lamb appeared on Yahoo! and a few sensationalistic websites.
The Guardian did by far the most complete report, but it leaves much to wonder about. But, here's news you can use: How to tell rat from lamb.
But even the Guardian's three stories leave plenty of questions whose answers are far from obvious.
First, authorities seized 20,000 metric tons of fake lamb, or 44 million pounds. That's what was in the pipeline, no word on how much of this stuff had already been eaten.
How do crooks manage this? They must have been splendid managers. I figure that 44,000,000 pounds of rat cutlets would require something on the order of 150,000,000 rats. The campaign against the Four Vermin was supposed to have knocked down the rat population.
So, first, how do you come by 150,000,000 rats without anyone's noticing? Where do you process it and who does it? There must have been thousands of rat butchers who took their renminbei without gossiping.
Hard to believe.
And where do you dispose of the skins and bones? As the video linked by the Guardian shows, there was quite a bit of labor involved. The scraps of rat were assembled with something the Chinese government calls "white meat" but appears to be fat. Where did that come from?
Was it hand labor that assembled the marbled rat cutlets, or did some ingenious Chinese engineer mechanize the fraud?
I have long advocated a market-based solution to pollution: If you can convince old Chinese guys that X will improve their sex drive, they will not only get rid of X for you (like rhinocerous horn), they will drive X to extinction. And make you rich to boot.
The flip side of this is, where is the profit in rat meat? Wouldn't it be easier just to raise a sheep?
I get where the scammers obtaned their fox and mink meat. The fur-farms probably were happy to give it away or even to pay to have it taken off. But rats seem more trouble than they are worth.