Yunnan TV, which broke the story on the incident on Thursday, said every time the local anti-smuggling office has buried such smuggled food in landfills in the past two years or so, villagers have dug it up.
After 249 tons of smuggled frozen meat was seized in Yunnan province, authorities were determined to make sure it would not re-enter the food chain.
The frozen beef, tripe and chicken feet had been seized by the anti-smuggling office of Jinping county government together with its public security bureau, administration for market regulation and animal husbandry bureau from April 8-12.
On April 28, all of the smuggled meat was taken to a garbage disposal plant in Jinping for nonhazardous landfill. Caustic soda was mixed with the meat, which was buried 5 meters deep, and concrete was used to keep it sealed.
The public security bureau made sure police stood guard at all times from 5 pm on April 28 until 9 pm on May 1, when the concrete was fully solidified.
It wasn't enough. After police left the site, people from nearby villages cracked the concrete and stole the smuggled meat.
Now, a special team has been set up to investigate the people and vehicles involved in digging out the smuggled goods, the Jinping county government said in a statement on Friday.
Yunnan TV, which broke the story on the incident on Thursday, said the problem isn't a new one. The report said every time the local anti-smuggling office has buried such smuggled food in landfills in the past two years or so, villagers have dug it up. Between 100 and 500 people are believed to have been involved. The report has generated expressions of shock from social media commentators around the country.
The local government didn't provide further information about how much contraband had been dug up or where it may have gone.
The county government said it will take a more "scientific" and environmentally sound approach to dispose of smuggled frozen products, without elaborating. It also said it will employ more stringent measures to prevent such cases from happening again.