COVID-19 Fact Checks

FALSE: Canned goods from China contain flesh of COVID-19 victims

FALSE: Canned goods from China contain flesh of COVID-19 victims
Similar claims in Africa have been debunked by third-party fact checkers and Chinese officials
At a glance
  • Main claim: Canned goods donated by China contain human flesh of coronavirus victims. Philippine stores were locked down so Filipinos would be forced to eat these contaminated canned goods. Germany already informed other countries about this.
  • Rating: FALSE
  • The facts: Similar rumors have surfaced as early as 2016 in African countries, prompting Chinese officials to deny reports that it is selling human flesh as canned goods. In the Philippines, there were no reports of canned goods donations from China during the pandemic. Moreover, Metro Manila and nearby provinces were placed on lockdown for protection against the virus, and not to force people to eat contaminated goods. There were also no reports of Germany informing other nations about the specific issue.
  • Why we fact-checked this: This chain message has been spreading again unchecked on Messenger. Separate posts containing the message were also posted on Facebook.
Complete details

An undated message containing false information has been spreading on Messenger, urging people to warn their families about canned goods, such as corned beef and luncheon meat, coming from China and which supposedly contain the flesh of coronavirus victims. Some accounts also posted the same message on Facebook.

The message, received by the author on April 15, 2021, and the Facebook post, which was posted on June 8, 2020, contained other false and outrageous claims, including the following:

  • That stores were locked down so Filipinos would be forced to eat these food items.
  • That 100 million Filipinos will be killed so Chinese can “replace” them in the Philippines.
  • There are already 3 million Chinese living in Mindanao.
  • Germany has informed other countries about this.

These claims are false.

As early as 2016, a similar false claim already surfaced in African countries, prompting Chinese officials to deny it. The Chinese Ambassador to Zambia, where a tabloid published the story, said via China’s official Xinhua News Agency and China News Daily that such reports were only meant to destroy the partnership between China and Zambia.

“Today a local tabloid newspaper is openly spreading a rumor, claiming that the Chinese use human meat to make corned beef and sell it to Africa. This is completely a malicious slandering and vilification which is absolutely unacceptable to us. We hereby express our utmost anger and the strongest condemnation over such an act,” then-ambassador Yao Youming said in a 2016 statement published on Chinese state media.

In 2019, a similar false claim – using photos of what appears to be a dead human lying on a butchery table – circulated on Facebook in Africa and was debunked by Africa Check, a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network.

In the Philippines, there have been no reports of China donating canned goods during the coronavirus pandemic. China has instead sent doctors, experts, medical supplies, and vaccines.

According to President Rodrigo Duterte, the National Capital Region and nearby provinces were placed on lockdown in March 2020 “as a matter of protecting and defending you (the people) from COVID-19.”

As for the alleged 3 million Chinese in Mindanao, Bureau of Immigration Alien Registration Division chief Jose Carlitos Licas reported that in 2019, of around 148,000 foreign nationals residing in the country, only 56,015 are Chinese nationals.

In 2020, during the pandemic, immigration spokesperson Dana Sandoval said that a total of 1.5 million foreigners arrived in the country in 2020, while 2 million left, including 300,000 Chinese.

According to a report from the Philippine Star, from January to September 2020, the labor department issued a total of 83,204 alien employment permits, with 81.5% for Chinese nationals – way smaller than the claim of 3 million Chinese in Mindanao alone.

There has also been no report of Germany informing other countries about the supposed contaminated relief goods from China. In September 2020, it was China that banned pork imports from Germany over African swine fever cases. China also banned meat importations from Germany, Brazil, and Argentina over coronavirus concerns. – Camille Elemia/Rappler.com

Keep us aware of suspicious Facebook pages, groups, accounts, websites, articles, or photos in your network by contacting us at factcheck@rappler.com. Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time.

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