"Potentially unsafe" rat meat is being sold illegally in London marketplaces

File this away under things you didn't want to know first thing Monday morning: a reportedly "shocking" quantity of bushmeat — including rat, goat and sheep meat — is being sold to the public illegally in east London marketplaces.

Top image is a photo of a fresh "grass cutter" or cane rat, similar to ones being sold in London, prior to preparation at a barbecue in Ghana | image via

BBC's Guy Lynn reports on the unsettling findings of a recent undercover investigation:

Under the counter, butchers at Ridley Road Market [a popular marketplace in the Northeast London borough of Hackney] were prepared to sell banned "smokies", a West African delicacy made using a blow torch on the skin of a sheep or goat to give it a charred flavour.

The practice is outlawed under UK and European food laws amid fears about public safety and animal welfare.

"It is disgusting and outrageous that the local authorities don't take action and remove this meat from the human food chain," [said Dr Yunes Teinaz, a chartered environmental health practitioner.]

One Hackney butcher, who was secretly filmed selling a BBC researcher quantities of the illicit meat, said: "Don't tell anyone, otherwise there will be trouble."

Two African food stores have sold bush meat such as "grass cutter" or cane rats [pictured up top, prior to preparation], which are described as having been imported from Ghana where they are a delicacy.

Featured below is a picture of grass cutter meat at a barbecue in Ghana, after the hair has been removed and the animal has been split into portions (via):

"Potentially unsafe" rat meat is being sold illegally in London marketplaces

What's really fascinating about this whole situation is how the illegal bushmeat trade manages to persist in the face of what would seem like obvious concerns over contamination and sanitation. Given the under-the-table nature of buying and selling illegal bushmeat, one has to assume that the customers purchasing it are aware that the meat they're buying is illegal, and hasn't undergone health inspections that other food is subjected to by UK and European law. As Paul Povey, a leading expert on meat hygiene and inspections in the UK, says:

"This is shocking, I am just so shocked to see so much of it... You've got to wonder about the contamination level of this meat that anyone's bringing into their kitchens."

Read more about this incredibly interesting (if somewhat unsettling) underworld of illicit meat-trading over at the BBC.