A Chinese restaurant owner is facing a 10-day detainment after lacing menu items with opiates in an attempt to improve his business.
He claimed that the use of addictive drugs in his cooking made the food taste better and kept his customers coming back for more.
The restaurant owner's hidden practices were uncovered when Liu Juyou – a 26-year old man who had shortly before consumed a bowl of opiate-infused noodles – failed a routine drug test initiated by Chinese police. After Juyou's insistence that he had never consumed narcotics of any kind, and claims that his previous meal was the only possible source of any substances present in his system, police launched an investigation into Juyou's most recent dining site.
Upon being presented with the allegations against him, the restaurant owner admitted to incorporating two kilograms of processed poppy buds – containing morphine and codeine, among other narcotics – into his noodle recipe. The owner also admitted to police that he had acquired these two kilograms for a mere 600 Yuan – the equivalent of approximately $110 Australian – raising concern that incorporating these practices into food preparation is far too attainable for Chinese restaurant operators.
Lacing Not Uncommon Chinese Practice
Although the practice is banned by the Chinese government, lacing edibles with narcotics is not an uncommon practice in China. In 2011, investigators found that opiates, among other illegal poppy products, were readily available to restaurateurs in Chinese markets.
Restaurants all over China have ignored food safety regulations and put these poppy substances to use in expanding and maintaining a larger clientele; however, these cases, when discovered, are not treated lightly. Sentences over the last year have included significant jail time for two restaurant owners; one who elected to use morphine as a secret ingredient in his soup offerings and the other who opted to incorporate narceine into the preparation of his crayfish special. Police have also shut down several other restaurants for incorporating opiates into their food preparation practices.
These cases are merely samples of what police estimate to be among the hundreds left to be discovered. The abundance of opiates enabling the continued practice of narcotic integration into Chinese food preparation is being attributed to high levels of poppy-cultivation in Myanmar, Lao, and Vietnam.
Both Provider and Consumer Punished
While the responsibility of abiding by food safety regulations is the responsibility of the food provider, China has created a strong incentive for consumers to raise their awareness of what exactly they are consuming. Liu Juyou, after unknowingly consuming the opiates in a lunchtime dish, was still detained for 15 days for narcotic consumption as Chinese law enforcement stressed that drug use is drug use whether the user is aware of the consumption or not.
Authorities are still determining whether the restaurant owner will be tried in court.