Investigation uncovers rat meat being sold at east London market

  • @robhastings

Rats are being sold to the public alongside other forms of illegal and possibly contaminated forms of meat by a popular food market.

Grasscutter rats imported from Ghana were sold to undercover reporters by six butchers and shops on Ridley Road market in the Dalston area of Hackney, east London, together with blow-torched goat and sheep meat known as "smokies".

After seeing footage of the meat, filmed by the BBC, environmental health expert Paul Povey said: "It's all illegal and hasn't undergone health control, hasn't been inspected and may well be contaminated.

"You've got to wonder about the contamination level of this meat that anyone's bringing into their kitchens."

Cane rats are regarded as such a delicacy in Ghana that some farmers now rear them in cages. Smokies, which involve an unskinned sheep carcus being flame-cooked without the spine being removed, are banned in the EU on the grounds of public health and animal welfare, have also been linked to gang crime.

Hackney Council said that it regularly carried out inspections, adding that its officers "will look into this and take the appropriate action". There is no suggestion that the practice is more widespread on the market. The two stores that were filmed selling rat meat later denied doing so.