Chinese authorities announced this week that they’ve seized more than 30,000 tons of chicken feet that had been tainted with hydrogen peroxide, which is sometimes used illegally to improve the appearance of meat.
Adding to China’s ever-growing list of food scandals, the poultry was discovered in nine factories in four provinces, according to state news agency Xinhua; 38 people have been arrested in connection to the nationwide “sales network.”
The stomach-turning discovery came after Chinese officials found evidence of tainted chicken feet in a factory in Yongjia in September. Further investigation revealed an even wider network of production facilities contaminating the poultry with products such as bleach and disinfectants.
Images on Chinese news sites show large vats of chicken feet soaking in tubs at the plants.
“Yesterday I ate a lot of these, now I want to throw up,” one commenter said on a Chinese blog, according to CNN.
The seized poultry was valued at over 300 million yuan (about $48 million), according to Reuters. Police are still looking for 11 suspects.
Hydrogen peroxide is commonly used as a disinfectant in industrial and medical settings, but if ingested in large quantities, it can cause stomach irritation and vomiting.
Served in soups or fried and simmered for dim sum, chicken feet– which are mostly skin, tendon and bones — are considered a delicacy in China. And in recent years, imports from the United States and Britain — where chicken feet are usually discarded — have skyrocketed to meet the demand.
A Chinese supplier was also caught repackaging expired meat that was then sold in McDonald’s restaurants in China.
According to Reuters, the seizure of chicken feet wasn’t unprecedented:
In 2013, Xinhua reported that China had seized 20 tons of chicken feet, some of which had production dates on their packaging going back as far as 1967.
Also, Reuters reported:
Chinese authorities also said on Monday that a local chef had gone on trial accused of painting abalones and goose feet to make the dishes visually more appealing, Xinhua said.