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December 4, 2012

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Eatery owner nabbed over food reuse

THE owner of a downtown hotpot restaurant accused of reusing soup bases has been arrested on a charge of producing and selling poisonous and harmful food, the Huangpu District Prosecution Office said.

The suspect surnamed Zheng had her restaurant closed in July after a local television station reported the Fu La Hot Pot Restaurant on Yandang Road collected used soup bases in a barrel, processed them into heavy, spicy soup bases and reused them on new tables to save costs. The soup bases contained a large amount of used cooking oil, which is harmful to people's health.

Prosecutors said they began to investigate the case following media reports because they thought Zheng and some others involved in recycling used oil had broken food safety laws.

During the investigation, Zheng was found to arrange for her nephew to transport 15 kilograms of used soup bases every two days from her restaurant to her husband's hotpot restaurant for processing, officials said. The processed soup bases were then served as fresh soup bases.

Prosecutors said Zheng's reuse of soup bases had severely affected the safety of local residents' health and decided to arrest her and her nephew.

Zheng told prosecutors she hadn't thought she was violating the law. "I thought I would be fined or have my business license revoked at most," she said before the arrest.

In October, media reports also revealed Zheng was a major investor of a new hotpot restaurant in the Xujiahui area whose name was Ding La and its legal representative was Zheng's husband.

According to Chinese law, the head of a restaurant that has had its business license revoked is banned from engaging in food production and management within five years. But the law does not ban those who have had problems with food safety to have their relatives or others serve as legal representatives for new restaurants.


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