Beijing: Eighteen people died of food poisoning in China in the first quarter of this year, up 50 per cent year on year as the world`s most populous country grappled with a wave of new cases of food adulteration, creating crisis of confidence among public over food chains.
From January to March, 755 people suffered food poisoning in 24 cases reported nationwide, an increase of 72.4 per cent and 41.2 per cent, respectively, from the same period last year, state-run Xinhua news agency quoted the National Health and Family Planning Commission as saying.
The state media reported last week that more than 900 people have been arrested in a three-month campaign in China for selling rat or fox meat as mutton and beef.
Recurrent food safety scandals in China have put the country`s authorities on high alert but selling fox and rat meat disguised as that of lamb, takes the cake, state run China Central Television (CCTV) reported.
Sixty three people were arrested for running an operation in east China that sold fox, mink, rat and other meat that had not been tested for quality and safety, after processing it with additives like gelatin and passed it off as lamb.
Despite years of food scandals, China has been slow to clean up its food supply chain. And experts say the buck should stop at the regulatory bodies, the television report said.
"I think the only way to solve this is for the government and its regulatory bodies to closely monitor food supply chains, and punish severely those who do wrong," said Ma Zhiying, CTO of Shanghai Food Institute.
The Commission in its report said plants and animals as well as poisonous mushrooms were the cause of most deaths.
People are already avoiding chicken products due to fears of H7N9 which resulted in the deaths of 31 people so far.
Most of the Chinese lost confidence in baby food products after repeated scandals resulting in large scale deaths and reports say that disgraced Chinese companies are attempting to establish their units abroad to rebred their milk powder.