San Francisco, CA | The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is concerned about an estimated 300,000 pounds of counterfeit rat meat that has been sold as chicken wings in restaurants and grocery stores across America.
FDA inspectors raised concerns when several illegal containers originating from China were seized by customs at the Port of San Francisco and were found to contain rat meat that was meant to be shipped to different meat processing plants across America and resold as chicken.
If hundreds of thousands of pounds of the illegal meat have been seized and are to be destroyed by authorities, the FDA warns an estimated 300,000 pounds of the counterfeit rat meat might still be in circulation.
“Summertime is a period where chicken wings are in high demand and where restaurants and grocery stores often face a penury” explains FDA inspector, Ronald Jones. “This is where the illegal market comes in. Although there is nothing dangerous about consuming rat meat if it is properly cooked, United States laws prohibit the import and sales of rat meat as a comestible item,” he adds.
Counterfeit meat sold as chicken wings is big money, admits FBI coordinator, Allen James.
“Every year a similar situation arises. Last year we seized large quantities of opossum meat coming from Mexico,” he explains. “Criminal organizations see the summertime as a period to cash in on different manners, be it illegal bets or gambling but also counterfeit meat. Where there is a way to make money, there will always be people who will try to find a way to bypass the law and make some profit,” he adds.
“No way to know for sure”
As for the hundreds of thousands of pounds of estimated illegal counterfeit meat already on the market, FDA spokesman Jenny Brookside admits there is no clear way for consumers to see the difference.
“Unfortunately, it is too late for the produce that has already been sold on the market. It is up to consumers to try to identify the quality and source of the meat that is packaged, but there is no absolute way of determining for 100% if the meat in your plate is chicken or rat” she admits with honesty. “If you find that your chicken wings taste slightly different from usual, it is a good bet that they might be counterfeit meat, but this can be easily hidden through the use of different ingredients and spices,” she acknowledges as a warning.
An estimated 36 million pounds of illegal counterfeit meat is sold in the United States each year according to a 2014 FDA study.