The next time you take a bite out of food in a Chinese restaurant, you might want to take a closer look (or sniff).

China’s customs have discovered dishonest merchants shipping decades old frozen rotting meat into the China. They hauled over 3 billion yuan (HK$3.8 billion) worth of illegal frozen chicken, beef and pork – some of which had packing dates going back to the 1970s.

According to Xinhua news, the most recent crackdown has netted over 800 tonnes of rotting meat at a Changsha wholesale market on 1st June.

Police also revealed the extent to which these merchants have gone to conceal their dishonest practices. Before its arrival in Changsha, the rotting meat had been shipped to Hong Kong before being packed and sent to its next port, Vietnam’s northern seaport of Haiphong. In Vietnam, the meat would be broken up into smaller consignments at the border city of Mong Cai before being smuggled into China.

After arriving in Changsha, the meat had been destined for dissemination to other parts of China, such as Guangdong, Sichuan and Chongqing , where it would enter restaurants, supermarkets or be sold online.

“It was too smelly! [There was] a whole truck of it. I almost threw up when I opened the door,” said an officer in the operation.

Some of the meat had already started to thaw and rot when it arrived in Changsha after 12 hours on the road. It was placed in cold storage for refreezing before being sent out again.

According to Hong Kong’s Centre of Food Safety, edible products imported for consumption are subject to surveillance, but it does not usually conduct tests on food being exported or re-exported.

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