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Unsupported health charges spoil bun sales

2009. 21 November

by Liang Yiwen
( The Shanghai Food and Drug administration has begun examining Yang's Fried Buns, a chain selling a traditional Shanghai-style snack likely to be served inside the 2010 World Expo site, after an unsubstantiated Internet report claimed the buns contain cancer-causing pork.

A unidentified Netizen said he suffered food poisoning after eating the pork-filled treats. Worse, the author claimed that further food checks revealed the snack food contained the breast meat from female pigs and cited authorities who said the meat can cause cancer.

None of the claims were substantiated, and none of the sources of information were identified. Even so, the popular chain has suffered a 10 percent drop in business after the posting spread to scores of online forums.

The restaurant owner denied the accusations and has hired lawyers to protect her reputation. She issued a statement requesting the cyber forums to delete all the posts and help track down the person who started the furor.

Popular spot

"I have never encountered such a setback in 15 years," said Yang Lipeng, the manager and the founder of the chain. "I almost cried when I heard the news from a friend."

The chain opened its first store on Wujiang Road in Jing'an District 15 years ago. There are usually long lines outside the store, and there are now 12 branches in the city.

The Netizen claimed to suffer vomiting and diarrhea less than an hour after eating eight fried buns and a bowl of beef soup in a Yang store on Huanghe Road on November 10. Doctors said the customer suffered food poisoning after a blood test and fecal examination, according to the posting.

The unnamed customer said he bought another four buns the next day and sent them to food inspection authorities for checks.

"After two hours, officials told me that the bun filings were a mixed blend of lean meat, fat meat and female pig's breast meat," the post said.

'Danger meat'

"They said the breast meat is very dangerous as it is cancer inducing."

The author said he abandoned his complaint after contacting the Huangpu District Industrial and Commercial Administration Bureau and became convinced officials there had good relations with the chain and would not pursue the matter.

The local FDA, quality supervision and industrial and commercial authorities, however, said that they haven't received any complaints about the buns. Further, there's no actual ban on the breast meat, although it is usually discarded in the butchering process. But FDA officials said they will inspect the chain's meat because of the widespread controversy.

Yang was confident about the quality of her meat and said she welcomes the check by authorities and the media.

"I have never used pig's breast meat," Yang said, adding that her products have passed all safety checks.

Yang suspects the posting came from a competitor or perhaps a customer who didn't like waiting in line.