China Wal-Mart surprise: How did fox meat get into donkey products?

Wal-Mart recalled donkey meat – a delicacy in northern China – because of contamination. 

Business Wire
A Wal-Mart supercenter in China is seen in this photograph.

If the discovery of “pink slime” in American hamburgers and horse meat in European ones made you squeamish, read no further.

Wal-Mart has just recalled donkey meat products from some of its stores in China because tests have found them to be contaminated with fox meat. 

Donkey is a delicacy in northern China. Fox is not. 

Fox meat smells rank, according to those who know. But it is cheap (less than 50 US cents a pound) because Chinese farmers who raise foxes for their fur have no use for the animal carcasses once they have been flayed.

Food processing companies get away with mixing in a little fox with whichever meat they claim to be selling by using products such as “The King of Rank Smell Removers.” For more details (and a pretty gory picture of fox corpses) see Gwynn Guilford's Quartz article. The Guangdong company's website is selling the same sort of chemical as police in the city of Wuxi last year found being used to make frog meat taste like mutton.

Chinese consumers are accustomed to discovering that they are putting things into their mouths that they had never suspected. Not long ago, some kebab stalls in Shanghai were closed down for selling rat, not lamb. “Gutter oil” recovered from drains outside restaurants and then filtered is commonly sold to other restaurants. Six babies died and 300,000 others were poisoned in 2008 after drinking milk contaminated with melamine, an industrial chemical that made the milk seem high in protein.

“It is mission impossible for us to guard against counterfeit products,” lamented one microblogger, commenting on the Wal-Mart scandal. 

Wal-Mart, meanwhile, announced on Weibo, a Twitter-like social media platform, that it would reimburse customers who bought the tainted "Five Spice" donkey meat from its stores in the coastal province of Shandong, where donkey is especially popular. 

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