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China steps up inspection of meat trade after fake lamb scandal

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has begun a crackdown on the sales of fake, diseased and tainted meat products after a series of scandals that have further dented public confidence in the food industry, the official Xinhua news agency said on Thursday.

It said the State Council, China's cabinet, recently ordered local government departments to step up checks on meat and processed meat products, and carry out detailed inspections of rural factories, workshops and warehouses as well as private slaughterhouses.

"The current water-injected meat, fake beef and mutton, dead livestock and other types of toxic and hazardous meat has aroused widespread concern," said the report.

"Local governments at all levels should strengthen their organization and leadership, to severely crack down on fake beef and mutton and other illegal and criminal activities."

Pork and poultry prices have suffered this year as a result of a series of food safety scandals, a bird flu outbreak and crackdown on expensive government banquets.

China has long been plagued by poor food safety standards, but many of the recent scares have involved its meat trade.

Earlier this month, the police said it had uncovered a crime ring that passed off more than $1 million in rat and small mammal meat as mutton.

It came after pictures of thousands of dead pigs dumped in rivers supplying Shanghai caused widespread outrage.

A media report last year uncovered excessive levels of hormones and antiviral drugs in chicken meat supplied to KFC, whose parent company is Yum Brands, and McDonald's.

Beijing has repeatedly called for greater inspection of food processing facilities to tackle food safety problems, but such actions appear to have done little to improve standards.

The latest clampdown will encourages local governments to offer rewards to people who inform on illegal activities.

The government also called for implementation of measures for the proper disposal of livestock that had died from disease.

(Reporting By Dominique Patton; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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