Chinese investigators admit to smelling a rat in college canteen food scandal


A provincial-level probe shuts down canteen, vows to punish college, local officials for ‘wrong conclusion’

Chinese investigators admit to smelling a rat in college canteen food scandal

A student at China’s Jiangxi Industry Polytechnic College recently found a rat head in their food at the school’s canteen.

Officials in eastern China have revoked the license of a Nanchang university canteen after admitting that a sodden, toothed and bewhiskered lump found in a student’s food was a rat’s head after all, following an earlier claim by the school that it was part of a duck.

A provincial level inquiry into the grisly object found by a student at the Jiangxi Industry Polytechnic College in the provincial capital upturned the school’s claim, which it had backed up with a written “statement” from the student involved.

Food quality has long been a bone of contention for students at Chinese vocational colleges, with the viral video clip of the incident prompting widespread public disgust and ridicule on social media.

The task force reviewed the video clip, interviewed staff and looked at a list of supplies recently ordered by the canteen, the English-language China Daily newspaper reported, citing a June 17 statement from investigators.

It found that the college and local market supervision officials “did not conduct an investigation carefully,” and had reached the wrong conclusion, the paper said.

The college canteen’s food license has been revoked and the company that operates the canteen has been given the maximum penalty under food safety laws and regulations, it said.

It will also be handing down “strict punishments” to college management and officials at the local Changdong market supervision bureau, the report said.

Duck or Rat?

Changdong market supervision officials had earlier said that the sodden lump – which appears in the video to have eyes and rodent-like teeth – was in fact part of a “duck’s neck” – a common ingredient in soups. 

Nanchang market supervision bureau official Jiang Xiexue told state-run Jiangxi Radio and TV that “local law enforcement officials had arrived at the scene and confirmed the strange item as a duck neck after repeated comparison.” 

Beijing-based current affairs commentator Ji Feng said the move was clearly a bid to calm public anger over the incident.

“This is similar to what I predicted — but they are still evading the issue, claiming that the [ruling Chinese Communist Party] is great, and glorious and correct,” Ji said. 

“The credibility of the government just keeps on getting worse,” he said.

Ji said it is typical of investigations like this one to focus on finding scapegoats among lower-ranking officials, rather than systemic issues that allow such scandals to emerge in the first place.

“The thing people really care about is the vested interests that are shared by the school leadership and the local industrial and commercial bureau,” he said.

“When someone makes a big mistake, the authorities always punish a bunch of low-ranking officials,” Ji said.

Food safety deteriorating?

Current affairs commentator Wang Zheng said there are systemic issues in the outsourcing of canteen contracts to big companies, in which local industrial affairs officials often hold a stake.

“This phenomenon has had a huge impact on food safety in China,” Wang said. “If anything, food safety has gotten worse over the past few years, not better.”

Meanwhile, reports emerged in Chinese media that two rats were found at a canteen on the Pingdingshan Expressway, which has been shut down pending “rectification.”

And investigators in Jiangxi’s Jiujiang city found that a kindergarten staff member had washed up childrens’ lunchboxes in a urinal, after a tipoff from a parent.

Local officials have now launched a “food safety awareness” campaign, the Global Times said, while The Paper reported on a food safety awareness event at the Jiangxi University of Engineering.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Malcolm Foster.

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