Police in Shanghai have busted a $1 million crime ring that was allegedly passing off the meat of rodents and other small animals as lamb meat.

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Smelling a rat: A man stands before a closed shop in Shanghai that sold fake mutton made from rat meat on Saturday; China has detained 900 people for crimes including selling rat and fox meat as beef and mutton.

Authorities in China smelled a rat — or several thousand tons of rat.

Chinese police have busted a $1 million crime ring that was allegedly passing off the meat of rodents and other small animals as mutton.

In total, more than 900 suspects have been arrested this year alone for selling tainted or fake meat products, adding to a long list of hazardous food practices that range from butchering cats to pass as poultry to thousands of dead pigs dumped in a river outside of Shanghai.

Year of the rat: This now-closed Shanghai shop is accused of selling fake mutton made from rat meat.

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Year of the rat: This now-closed Shanghai shop is accused of selling fake mutton made from rat meat.

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More than 20,000 tons of counterfeit meat was seized in the raid, according to a release from China's Ministry of Public Security.

Suspects in eastern China allegedly purchased fox, mink and rat meat and passed it off as lamb.

Meat your maker: China's Ministry of Public Security said to look out for imitation meat, which they say has been treated with gelatin and falls apart easily.

PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images

Meat your maker: China's Ministry of Public Security said to look out for imitation meat, which they say has been treated with gelatin and falls apart easily.

It remains unclear where the smugglers got the meat in the first place.

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The fake products had been treated to more closely resemble lamb, and were doused in gelatin and pigmented to mask their true forms, The New York Times reported.

Lamb kebabs, or are they? Street food for sale in    Shanghai.

PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images

Lamb kebabs, or are they? Street food for sale in Shanghai.

Shanghai police, in an effort to show greater transparency, warned diners to look out for tell-tale signs of imitation meat.

"In fake lamb, it is easy to pull apart the fat from the red meat. In real lamb, the fat is difficult to separate," they wrote on Sina Weibo, China's equivalent to Twitter.

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Food for thought: A villager gathers dead pigs in a town in Zhejiang Province in March. The number of dead pigs found in Shanghai's main river has residents worried over the water supply, one of many food safety issues plaguing China.

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Food for thought: A villager gathers dead pigs in a town in Zhejiang Province in March. The number of dead pigs found in Shanghai's main river has residents worried over the water supply, one of many food safety issues plaguing China.

Residents of China have become hardened to many issues plaguing the country, including pollution and environmental issues, but news of the "meat ring" has rattled many.

One user said on Weibo: "How many rats does it take to put together a sheep? Is it cheaper to raise rats than sheep?"

The news comes amid a bird flu scare, and weeks after thousands of dead pigs were found discarded in water supplies.

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As the Times notes, 16,000 bloated hog carcasses were discovered floating in the body of water outside of Shanghai in March.

The dead animals were believed to be diseased and likely discarded by a piggery upstream.

Li Kequiang, China's newest prime minister, has said that improving food safety is imperative and will be one of his goals while in office.



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