Chinese police have reportedly seized 20 tonnes of out-of-date meat from a Vietnamese smuggling gang including chicken feet that were 46 years past their sell-by-date.
During a raid conducted in May but only reported this week, police in the southwestern province of Guangxi said they smashed an underground network that had been swamping the Chinese food market with substandard chicken feet, tripe and throat.
Among their stomach-churning discoveries were chicken feet that date back to 1967, a time when China was still ruled by Chairman Mao and the Tiananmen Square massacre was still twenty-two years away.
Li Jianmin, a local security chief, told the state news agency Xinhua that after smuggling the decades-old feet into China the expired meat was treated with chemicals, including hydrogen peroxide, “to kill bacteria, prolong the expiry date” and make the feet “look white and big”.
The smugglers were able to turn a profit of around £1750 per tonne by transforming 1kg of out-of-date chicken into 1.5kg of apparently fresh chicken, the South China Morning Post reported, citing Guangxi’s Chutian Metropolis Daily.
The chicken feet, that are as old as the debut albums of both the Doors and Pink Floyd, entered the market during a crucial year of world history.
Under Chairman Mao, China was in the throes of the decade-long Cultural Revolution, a vicious crackdown on landowners, intellectuals and religion that is thought to have claimed at least one million lives.
Over the border in Vietnam, from whence the chickens’ feet came, war was raging and US president Lyndon Johnson faced a growing backlash at home over the rising body count.
In Britain, Harold Wilson was three years into his first term as prime minister and the Beatles’ were preparing to release Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Forty-six years on, the Guangxi chicken feet have become the latest symbol of China’s ongoing food safety crisis.
Scarcely a day goes by without new and often mind-boggling concoctions hitting the domestic food market.
In May it emerged that diners in some Shanghai restaurants had been gorging themselves on rat, mink and fox rather than lamb.
Last week, Shanghai police said they had closed two crayfish restaurants after receiving a tip-off from a kitchen “insider”. The chefs, it was claimed, had been adding poppy seeds to their soups in the hope it would leave their customers addicted.