Restaurants Caught Adding Addictive Poppy Powder to Food

Chinese restaurants fined for adding opium derivative to food
Wikimedia/Motohiko Tokuriki

Restaurants in southern China were caught adding poppy powder to make dishes more addictive.

Several restaurants in Guangzhou, in southern China, are under fire after figuring out a surefire way to keep their customers coming back for more: adding poppy powder to the dishes.

Poppy powder is a derivative of opium, which is highly addictive and very illegal in China. According to Want China Times, the Guangzhou Food and Drug Administration found multiple restaurants adding poppy powder to marinades in an attempt to make their food more flavorful and possibly addictive.

At first the kitchen staffs at the implicated restaurants said they had no idea what was in the marinade bags they were using. They said the restaurants’ suppliers had simply delivered them that way, and the kitchens hadn’t asked any questions. After further investigation, however, the employees admitted that they had totally been adding powdered poppy to the restaurant’s food on purpose.

The restaurants were fined $1,700 and given warnings, but it was not actually illegal to add small amounts of poppy powder to food at the time. That loophole has been closed since the restaurants were discovered, and it’s now illegal to add even small amounts of poppy flower to food. 

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A local FDA official said customers should be vigilant when eating out, though since the main result of adding illicit poppy powder is a dish that’s unusually aromatic and flavorful, it’s unclear how a diner would ever be able to watch out for that.