NPR logo Over-Aged: Chinese Authorities Seize Decades-Old Meat

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Over-Aged: Chinese Authorities Seize Decades-Old Meat

China's customs agents have seized thousands of tons of frozen chicken wings, beef and pork that were smuggled by gangs. Weighing more than 100,000 tons, the meat has an estimated value of more than $480 million — but it also poses serious health risks, officials said.

News of the seizure comes from state-run China Daily, which reports that customs officers in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region "found that some of the confiscated smuggled frozen meat is far older than the given expiration dates suggest, with some being more than 40 years old."

The crackdown began earlier this month, spreading from Hunan to 13 other provinces and regions. In Hunan alone, 20 people were rounded up and 800 tons of meat products were seized.

"The products fully filled an entire compartment. It was smelly, and I nearly threw up when I opened the door," Zhang Tao, an administration official, tells China Daily.

Explaining how the smugglers operate, the newspaper says that they buy meat at low prices on the international market. It's then shipped to Hong Kong and then on to Vietnam and the Chinese mainland.

But a leader in the anti-smuggling team says that to cut costs, the smugglers often use nonrefrigerated vehicles to move the contriband around — meaning that often the meat has thawed and been refrozen several times before reaching consumers.