More than 100 meal boxes sent to Hong Kong police officers on Friday night contained raw chicken, the Post has learned.
Officers of the Police Tactical Unit at Sheung Shui station realised that their dinner - chicken pasta - contained uncooked meat before anyone consumed it, according to an internal memo from the force seen by the Post.
The force immediately ordered food from other canteens and distributed cup noodles to officers who got the raw meat, it said.
But some officers had to rush to Sham Shui Po and Prince Edward to disperse anti-government protesters before the replacement food arrived, according to messages posted on social media.
Rumours began spreading online soon after the incident that local food chain Maxim's had provided the meal boxes. But police sent out another internal memo just after midnight on Saturday, saying the food was not procured from Maxim's but stopping short of naming the supplier.
Police have confirmed the incident, but the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said it had yet to receive any complaint.
However, it appeared the incident was not linked to anti-police sentiments among some sections of the public over officers' handling of extradition bill protests.
According to another internal memo to officers at 11pm on Saturday, the catering team had followed up complaints about the uncooked food with the supplier.
"After detailed inquiries, we believe the incident was not maliciously targeting police officers," the memo issued by the catering team said. "Probably because orders were increased temporarily, the supplier failed to unfreeze the frozen meat completely."
The team noted that the supplier had helped in offering food boxes to officers involved in operations since June. "The food they provided in the past was reliable," the memo said.
The team said it would remind the supplier to enhance monitoring to avoid such an incident happening again.
The force has been embroiled in violent clashes with anti-government demonstrators ever since protests against the now-withdrawn bill started sweeping the city in June.
Police officers and their families often came out to say they were facing online harassment, including cyberbullying and doxxing - in which their sensitive personal information was being leaked on public platforms.
Officers have also faced hostility in hospitals. The force suspended round-the-clock services at their posts in two public hospitals after complaining about being verbally abused.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.