Two south Chinese restaurants were found to be serving their food with poppy seed powder–which contains addictive substances like codeine and morphine–to ensure diners would come back for more.
Officials with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in Guangzhou Province checked 70 restaurants last year, and found that two were using marinade sachets containing poppy powder, Yangcheng Evening News reported.
Zhan Ke, who works for the Guangzhou FDA Restaurant Division, told the paper that heavily seasoned or aromatic sauces may contain poppy seeds. In their spot check, the inspectors targeted soup base, home-made chilli sauce, brine, and curry sauce.
Tests revealed several substances, that could damage the digestive and nervous systems, including codeine, morphine, papaverine, noscapine, and thebaine.
In 2012, inspectors in Jiangsu Province sampled over 400 hotpot soup bases, and found 10 percent contained poppy seed ingredients, according to a report by Oriental Daily earlier this year.
Also, many seasoning stores in Beijing sell poppy seeds and many noodle shops and barbeque stands were big buyers. According to a merchant, the seeds were sold at 450 yuan per jin ($55 per pound). Her buyers were all restaurant owners, and sales were made using code words.
Earlier this year, a blogger told a reporter from Yangtse Evening News that he went to a hotpot restaurant with his friends in Nanjing. He thought the soup tasted unusual and suspected poppy seeds had been added. He went back another time, and his urine tested positive for heroin after having the same hotpot dish.
The reporter tried to buy hotpot seasoning at a store in the Changhong Road Market. The owner said: “Most of the restaurants add ‘the shells’ otherwise the customers won’t come back.”
The report added that if a store carries less than 100 pounds of poppy seeds, no criminal charges will be filed, so most stores only carry 90 pounds of seeds.
Research by Hsin-Yi Lin.