Things from the 70s that should never be seen or heard from again: rhinestone platform shoes, Rick Dees' Disco Duck, Bill Cosby, and that sirloin special your father ordered for his high school graduation at the local Howard Johnson's.
But some things keep rearing their ugly heads. And I'm not talking about you, Fat Albert. I'm talking meat—from the 70s.
"It was too smelly! A truck full of it! I almost nearly threw up when the door opened." These are words you do not want to hear out of the mouth of a food inspector.
But, indeed, that is just what one Chinese official in Hunan Province had to say recently. Chinese authorities, in a joint operation throughout the nation, have seized more than 100,000 tons of smuggled meat, giving a whole new meaning to the term sausage party. State media reports that the frozen meat was estimated to be worth more than $483 million and likely entered the country through Hong Kong and Vietnam, but originated as far away as Brazil and India.
Beef, chicken feet, duck necks, and more were all illegally imported into China. Twenty-one criminal gangs were targeted by the police operation, with 20 people arrested in Hunan province alone. The smuggling took place in outposts that would allow the food to move without being subject to import restrictions.
You don't have to be a crime-fighting dog to see these criminals clearly knew the answer to the question: Where's the beef?
OK, so the illegal importation of meat is pretty bad. But worse? Lets just say the meat was transported in less than sanitary conditions. An anti-smuggling official said, "the meat has often thawed out several times before reaching customers." Why? Because the foodstuff was transported in non-refrigerated trucks for periods of over 12 hours. After being refrozen, it was distributed to supermarkets, restaurants, and retailers, and sold online.
But here's the kicker, interwebs:
The China Daily reported that officials from Guangxi, an area in southern China, found meat dating back to the 1970s. Screw your local steakhouse, these guys got dry-aging down! Apparently, the shadowy meat-men of China were kind enough to leave behind evidence of their misdeeds; they forgot to remove some incriminating stamps on the packaging, dating back to the 70s.
Blast from the past just doesn't do it justice. We're talking about the Dr. Who of the culinary world.
This sting operation is part of a larger, nationwide crackdown on food safety scandals that have plagued the Middle Kingdom in recent years. In fact, not one day before the seizures, three milk producers in the Shaanxi province were ordered to recall their infant formula powder by China's food safety watchdog.
Food scandals have rocked China for years now. In 2008, just days before the Beijing Olympics, the products of many milk and infant formula companies—among other products produced in China—were found to be contaminated with melamine, a chemical used to produce plastics. The chemical was likely added to create the appearance of enhanced protein content. Six infants died from kidney stones and other kidney problems, with 300,000 victims suffering overall.
And in more bad food P.R. from China this week, Yulin, a city in the southeast, became the target of animal activist vitriol thanks to its lovely tradition: the annual Dog Meat Festival. When locals complained that Westerners just didn't understand the local culture, celebrities jumped on that bandwagon. Ricky Gervais tweeted, "Dear Morons: Stopping the YulinDogMeatFestival is less to do with them being dogs and more to do with them being tortured and skinned alive."
Pretty shitty, but we can only hope that the Chinese government will continue the current trend of escalating food safety crackdowns throughout its 23 provinces.
If not, at least we can all take comfort from this age-old idiom: You dim sum, you lose some.