The persistent claim that rat meat is being sold as boneless chicken wings has recently regained traction on social media.
A recording of a 13-second TikTok video shared Jan. 16 to Instagram appears to show a screenshot of another post with a TV news graphic.
The graphic has an image of fried food on a platter with an apparent news chyron that reads, “Breaking News: One million pounds of rat meat being sold in America.”
Below the graphic is an apparent headline that reads, “Million pounds (sic) of rat meat being sold as boneless chicken wings in the U.S.”
“Meanwhile y’all all lined up at the Taco Bell trying to get y’all some wings,” a woman says in the video. “I don’t know if that’s rat meat or what.”
The post generated close to 32,000 likes in less than a week. Variations of this claim also amassed hundreds of likes on Instagram and Facebook.
But the claim is false. There is no evidence customers are buying rat meat instead of boneless chicken wings, as independent fact-checking organizations have noted.
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USA TODAY reached out to the social media users who shared the claim for comment.
The rat meat claim is baseless, according to a comment provided through the Department of Agriculture’s Food and Safety Inspection Service.
The Food and Drug Administration has not issued any safety alerts, recalls or market withdrawals related to rat meat in boneless chicken wings.
The image in the post shows fried rats, which were photographed in Thailand and first shared May 15, 2007, by Nicolai Bangsgaard on Flickr. USA TODAY did not find any evidence the image was shared in a TV news story in the U.S.
There is also no evidence that Taco Bell, the fast-food chain mentioned in the video, is using rat meat as a substitute for chicken wings. USA TODAY reached out to Taco Bell for comment.
This isn’t the first time false claims about rat meat have surfaced on social media.
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The claim that San Francisco officials “seized thousands of pounds of rat meat imported from China before the Super Bowl” circulated widely in and 2017, according to the Associated Pres. The Associated Press also reported in 2017 that the FDA was “not aware of the seizure of rat meat.” Another version of this claim was debunked again in 2018.
In 2020, USA TODAY also debunked the claim that an Atlanta Chinese bistro was closed for selling customers rat meat, noting the claim “has circulated since the early 2000s.”
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that rat meat is being sold as boneless chicken wings. There is no evidence to support that claim. The FDA has not issued any safety alerts, recalls or market withdrawals related to rat meat in boneless chicken wings. Fact-checkers have debunked similar claims in the past.
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