China

Decades-old beef 'originally came from American reserves'

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Decades-old beef 'originally came from American reserves'

Related tags: United states, China

Before it was sold to food stalls and restaurants in China, much of the expired meat that has been all over recent headlines in the country had originally been part of American food reserves that were smuggled in through Hong Kong in the ‘Seventies and ‘Eighties.

Expired beef from India was also exported to Vietnam and then smuggled into southern China for distribution, state newspaper reports have claimed. 

More than 20 gangs were arrested by officials last month for smuggling frozen meat products—some of them dating back 40 years—in 14 provinces. 

According to The Beijing News, most of the 800 tonnes of expired meat was discarded from American food reserves which were used at the time as foreign strategic reserves and to stabilise prices—a practice engaged by a number of countries.

It costs a fraction for the United States to store its food reserves in countries like China than at home, though the meat is usually destroyed when it expires.

Gao Guan, the deputy secretary of the China Meat Association told Chinese media: “Domestic regulations stipulate frozen beef and lamb expires after eight to 12 months and it should not be defrosted after that, but the international practice is generally two years​.” 

South China Morning Post​ reported that consumers would be unlikely to have known if they had consumed the decades-old beef.

"After [it has been] frozen for a long amount of time, the surface of the beef will start to oxidate and darken so it can't be directly sold to consumers​," the paper quoted a source as saying. 

"After being stewed or fried in restaurants, the beef will look and taste just like fresh beef. Consumers won't be able to tell the difference​.”

Related topics: Policy, Food safety, Meat, China, East Asia

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