The police in Kolkata have arrested 10 people suspected of supplying meat from animal carcasses in dump yards to small eateries and restaurants in the city, NDTV reported on Tuesday. However, there is no confirmation when these men were taken into custody.

Last week, the government seized 20 tonnes of rotten meat from the city’s Rajabazar-Narkeldanga area, PTI reported. The police suspect it was sourced from dumping grounds and was meant to be sold to eateries and departmental stores in the state as well as neighbouring Jharkhand, Odisha and Bihar.

The police also caught two men near the Kolkata airport with 70 kg of rotten chicken, which they were reportedly planning to sell to local eateries. Based on the information they gave, the police searched a wholesale chicken outlet in the city’s Lake Town locality during the weekend, but the shop owner escaped, NDTV reported. The police found rotten chicken in the shop’s freezers. The police uncovered a similar scene in the city’s New Town locality.

The police suspect that five influential individuals are involved in this racket. “These individuals are scattered in different parts of the state including others in the neighbouring states,” said Superintendent of Police (Diamond Harbour) Koteshwar Rao. “We are trying to establish the chain. The racket seems to be quite an organised one.”

As these reports emerged, there was a sharp drop in the consumption of meat across the city. This forced the Hotel and Restaurants’ Association of Eastern India to issue an urgent advisory to its members on Monday, asking them buy meat only from registered suppliers, The Times of India reported.

“Respectable eateries, including our members, do not procure meat from dubious sources,” the association said. “Smaller eateries may buy chicken and mutton from roadside vendors or suppliers from the city fringes who are now under the scanner. Frozen meat is now suspect and we have requested all restaurants not to use them. But the drop in sale of non-vegetarian food is a worry.”

The owner of a popular biryani joint in South Kolkata, Shamim Hotel, said sales had dropped more than 60% after the reports emerged. “On any normal day, we would procure 25 kg to 30 kg of meat,” Sheikh Shamim told The Times of India. “But, after the carcass rumour, the procurement has dropped to just 8 kg a day. It is a big setback.”

The government has directed all police stations in the city and the districts to keep an eye on the sale of meat in their areas.