Several Shanghai restaurants were raided by officials from the Shanghai Consumer Council (SCC) during a recent spot check on venues selling youtiao, fried dough sticks that are a popular breakfast food.
The tests, conducted across 29 samples and 25 food brands, showed that some popular restaurants and fast-food chains were serving unhealthy and even dangerous youtiao. The results were released last week.
Five restaurants were shut down by the city's Food and Drug Administration for not having business licenses, while five others were ordered to meet food and health standards, reports China Daily.
The first index tested by the SCC was aluminium concentration. Alum, a common food additive which is often used as a leavening agent for youtiao, contains aluminium. However, excessive or long-term intake of aluminium may affect the nervous and reproductive systems.
The results showed that youtiao from 11 restaurants contained aluminium residue, even those that labeled their products as ‘alum-free.’ The only vague upside was that the amount of aluminium contained in most samples was relatively safe in terms of what’s regulated in China’s Standard for Food Additives.
Youtiao, a common Chinese breakfast food
The restaurants that claimed to not use alum had, on average, 6.1 milligrams per kilogram of aluminium residue, compared to 6.36 milligrams per kilogram at restaurants which did not claim that their food was free of alum.
A sample from one restaurant, Sida Jingang in Pudong, was found to contain excessive aluminium concentrations of 980 milligrams per kilogram, nearly ten times above the limit.
In another test, three restaurants were found to be selling youtiao with residue from plasticizer, including two branches of McDonald's. However the levels found at McDonald's did not exceed the upper limit of 1.5 milligrams per kilogram.
The SCC also tested the polar components of the youtiao, which is an index to indicate the quality of the oil. If the index was too high, chances were the restaurant seldom changed its cooking oil. One popular chain, Xinya Dabao, was found to exceed the maximum national standard of 27 percent at two of its separate branches. High polar components have been shown to lead to cancer and high cholesterol. Both Xinya Dabao outlets remain in business but are among the five restaurants that were ordered to meet food standards.
Finally, nine samples were found to contain excessive levels of saturated fat, which can lead to bone problems, obesity, cardivascular diseases and even cancer.
Here's what the youtiao tests showed for some popular eateries:
Sida Jingang (Chengshan Lu branch): excessive aluminium residue (980 milligrams per kilogram, nearly ten times what’s regulated)
Taoyuan Village (Jing'an): residual aluminium (9.73 milligrams per kilogram, though the restaurant said it didn't add alum to its youtiao)
McDonald's (Kongjiang Lu and Changyang Lu): youtiao found to contain the plasticizer diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP). Kongjiang Lu outlet had 1.35 milligrams per kilogram
KFC (Kongjiang Lu): excessive saturated fat (6.81 grams per 100 grams, equivalent to that of 21 grams of fat meat)
Yon Ho (Daning Lu): excessive saturated fat
Yonghe King (Kongjiang Lu): excessive saturated fat
Xinya Dabao (Changyang Lu and Xingguo Lu): 43 percent and 39.6 percent of polar components, respectively, above the national standard of 27 percent
Husiye: high polar components (above national standard)
Dialaixi: high polar compontents (above national standard)
A Wen: high polar components (above national standard)
[Images via Baidu, Urban Family]