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article image'Secret ingredient' used in some Chinese restaurants illegal drug

By Karen Graham     Jan 23, 2016 in Food
Beijing - China's Food and Drug Agency busted 35 restaurants across the country for using an illegal drug as seasoning in their food. No, the seasoning wasn't contaminated with bacteria or allergens. It was powder from opium poppies.
China's top food regulator announced on Thursday the restaurants, including a popular Beijing hot pot chain, were selling popular menu items and snacks laced with a powder made from opium poppies.
The China Daily is reporting China's Food and Drug Administration said that 25 of the restaurants have been transferred to public security departments for prosecution while the remaining 10 establishments are being investigated by the administration.
The restaurants range from upscale nightspots to Shanghai dumpling joints and noodle shops in southwestern Chongqing. The cooks have been spreading opium powder that contains small amounts of codeine and morphine in soups and seafood dishes. It is not known if this affects the taste or creates a craving for more, but it is one of the stranger practices that food regulators in China have to contend with.
Hu Ling is the general manager of a popular chain of restaurants in Beijing called Hu Da. She confirmed on Friday the company was under investigation, saying the restaurant may have unknowingly used a seasoning containing opiates. She declined further comment, according to the Associated Press.
Of course, some say the powder is used to get customers hooked on their meals. The powder, which costs about $60 a kilo in Western China, is often mixed with chili oils and powder, making it difficult to detect. It is then stirred into soups and seafood dishes. It is still questionable if the small amounts of opium will cause addiction, but the drug was banned in China in 2013, according to CNN News.
"There are so many restaurants in China and it is very difficult to effectively inspect every one of them to ensure they all follow the law," said Luo Yunbo, a professor of food safety and nutrition at China Agricultural University.
However, despite pledges by the government to improve enforcement, Chinese consumers are frequently faced with food scares, from tainted baby milk to fake meat and fruits, reports Newser.
More about opium powder, chinese restaurant, soups and seafoods, Illegal drug, Codeine
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