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January 27, 2011

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

14 'poppy hotpot' outlets shut

FOURTEEN hotpot restaurants last year lost their licenses for lacing meals with crushed poppy shells, city food safety officials said yesterday.

This was the biggest clampdown on the practice in recent years, said the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration at a conference reporting last year's performance and detailing this year's plan.

The FDA said it revoked the licenses of three Chongqing-style hotpot restaurant chains with a total of 14 outlets.

The individual alleged to be the main culprit was detained by police and faces up to five years in prison. Another three people received administrative punishments.

"It is the biggest case we detected in recent years," said Gu Zhenhua, director of Shanghai FDA's food supervision department.

There are about 1,000 Chongqing-style hotpot restaurants in the city, Gu said.

The agency carried out a citywide sweep late last year on hotpot restaurants using illegal additives such as poppy shell and chemicals, Gu said.

Chongqing hotpot is renowned for its "numb and spicy" taste. Poppy shells are added to make the stew addictive, in the hope customers return for more.

Shanghai FDA said it will step up food and drug supervision this year to help prevent food poisoning cases and drug-related adverse reactions.

"We will be targeting food from other provinces, small and unlicensed restaurants and the abuse of medicines in the hospitals," said Vice Mayor Shen Xiaoming.

On the FDA hitlist will be aquatic products with excessive pesticide residue and pork tainted with illegal chemicals.

Shanghai has nearly 40,000 licensed restaurants, 80 percent of which are small and most difficult to administer.

"Health care reforms will soon be announced, with tough measures to control doctors' over-prescription of antibiotics and intravenous drips," Shen said.

"We will also seek to reinstate effective and cheap medicines which are no longer produced because they offer low profits."

There will also be more inspections of beauty parlors, after 29 were punished last year for using questionable or unlabeled products.


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