Restaurants In China Shut Down For Seasoning Food With Opium Poppies

| by Sheena Vasani
Chinese Seafood Dish.Chinese Seafood Dish.

Restaurants in China  have been shut down after they illegally seasoned their food with opium poppies.

Thirty-five restaurants have been accused of engaging in this practice, with officials currently prosecuting five and investigating 30 more, The Guardian reports.

Hu Ling, the general manager of one of the restaurants in Beijing, confirmed the company was being investigated stating it may have unintentionally obtained the controversial seasoning.

While it is unclear how the opium poppies got into the food, previous Chinese cases reveal chefs sometimes secretly sprinkle the powder into soups and seafood dishes.

Poppy powder contains small amounts of opiates, such as morphine, but at an amount higher than what bagel seeds typically contain. It is unclear how addictive this is, or whether an person gets high from eating a food seasoned with it.

In 2014, police arrested a noodle seller who was lacing his food with poppy powder, CNN reports. He admitted he did it to keep customers coming back and to improve the food’s taste. Whether it was effective is unclear.

In China, 215 restaurants were closed down in 2004 for similar charges, while seven were shut down in 2012 for this practice.

Poppy powder is cheaply and easily purchased in China for about $30 a pound and it is often mixed with chili powders and oils, making it hard to detect.

This is not the first time China has received international attention for food safety scares.

In 2014, a China-based supplier was selling unsanitary and expired chicken to KFCs and McDonalds worldwide.

In 2009, two men were sentenced to death after they sold tainted infant formula.

The baby formula killed six children, hospitalized 50,000 infants, and made nearly 300,000 sick. The children were hospitalized for kidney problems after drinking the Sanlu baby formula contaminated with melamine, a chemical used to make fertilizer and plastics.

The most senior official at Sanlu, Tian Wenhua, was spared the death sentence but was fined and sentenced to prison, angering many.

Sources: The Guardian (2), CNN / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons