In an undercover investigation, the BBC filmed several butchers shops and food stores on Dalston’s Ridley Road market offering illegal meat for sale.

The meat is illegal as it has not undergone health and safety checks, something those selling it seem to be aware of. In the undercover film, one shop owner was heard telling the investigator to keep his rat meat trade a secret “otherwise there will be trouble.”

Grasscutter rats and “smokies” – made by using a blow torch on the skin of a sheep or goat to give it a charred flavour – were found for sale at the London market.

Both of these are sought-after foods in West Africa. “Smokies” meat is banned in Europe and the UK on grounds of public safety and animal welfare.  

The investigation uncovered six butchers and food stores selling the illegal meats.

Paul Povey, a member of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, said: “I am just so shocked. It’s all illegal and hasn’t undergone health control, hasn’t been inspected and may well be contaminated.”

Since the undercover expose, some Ridley Road market traders have denied the allegations. One food shop, Great Expectations, which allegedly sold rat meat to the BBC journalist, said: “I don’t sell rats, I never sell rats, I don’t sell rats. I don’t have any rats, why you come to video me?”