Chengdu hotpot eateries in hot soup over food safety
THE hotpot is one of Chengdu's most famed dishes but it has been dogged by unease over restaurants' use of poor-quality or even harmful ingredients in the soup base.
According to Li Zhiqiang, a restaurateur in Chengdu, "recycled oil is used as a soup base in many hotpot restaurants to enhance the aroma".
Now, the eateries will have to change their ways.
The provincial Health and Family Planning Commission formulated a regulation earlier this month to ban substandard materials in the soup base.
"The regulation will take effect on Jan 15, and any hotpot restaurant in the province that fails to meet its requirement will be punished," said Fan Chuan, an information officer for the commission.
The province announced a similar regulation to standardise hotpot soup base in 2006.
But it was only a recommendation to restaurants and penalties were not meted out for non-compliance.
Under the new regulation, restaurants will be barred from using oils or additives containing excessive pollutants.
"Without regulation, restaurants might use oil from the guts of a pig, cat or dog instead of standard beef tallow.
"For aroma enhancement, they might use spices grown in fields with excess chemical fertilisers or heavy metals," said Mr Li, who has worked in the catering industry for 22 years.
Such a measure will help to quell the anxieties of diners like Zhang Feng.
He had misgivings about taking his family for hotpot meals during a five-day stay in the city in Sichuan.
Mr Zhang, a lubricating oil expert from Beijing, had travelled to the city with his wife and daughter.
They ate at two hotpot restaurants but felt worried that the oil in the hotpot might not be as good as it appeared.
Hailing the new regulation as a good measure to ensure food safety, some netizens wonder if the restaurants will comply.
"About 70 per cent of the hotpot restaurants are large ones and buy their materials for soup base from processing plants. If the government food watchdog keeps an eye on the plants, materials from them will meet the requirements," Mr Li said.
"The other restaurants are small and might make the soup base themselves.
"It is difficult to monitor them."
ASIA NEWS NETWORK