Secret Ingredient Used in China's Restaurants: Drugs
Country's FDA going after eateries it says use opium poppy powder as seasoning
By Jenn Gidman, Newser Staff
Posted Jan 22, 2016 1:01 PM CST
In this July 31, 2014 photo, a dish is placed near a menu at a restaurant in Beijing.   (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

(Newser) – If repasts at restaurants in China have seemed especially delectable (and irresistible) as of late, it may be because workers were sprinkling addictive opiates into the mix. That's what that country's equivalent of the FDA alleges, and now five restaurants are being prosecuted, while 30 others are getting a closer look, the Independent reports. The illicit seasoning in question: powder from opium poppies, which can contain small amounts of codeine and morphine and, some say, get consumers hooked on their meals, per the AP. The powder—which can be bought in western China for about $60 a kilo—is often mixed with chili powder and oil, which makes it harder to detect, and stirred into soups and seafood dishes. Although the AP says it's "unclear" whether the opium flavoring can actually cause addiction, the substance has been banned since 2013, per CNN, and runs counter to China's Food Safety Law, reports China Daily.

"There are so many restaurants in China and it is very difficult to effectively inspect every one of them to ensure they all follow the law," a food safety professor at China Agricultural University tells China Daily. Meanwhile, citizens are unloading their anger online. "How much poison have we eaten?" one commented on a national consumer site, per the Telegraph, while another one posted: "Unscrupulous merchants harming people with poison. I finally know the reason for the long queues outside this restaurant." (This isn't the first time this has happened in China.)