One big reason restaurants in China are getting away with illegal, addictive ingredients.

Next to pizza, there is perhaps no food more universally celebrated in the U.S. than Chinese.

GIF via "Jersey Shore."

Orange beef, kung pao chicken, GENERAL TSO'S, Y'ALL... Chinese food (or, at least, what many of us consider Chinese food) is some of the most diverse, tasty, and addictive stuff on the planet, and I'd argue that it's well on its way to replacing the hot dog as our national food in America.


In China, though, there's a specific reason behind the habit-forming quality of the food: poppy seeds.

Photo by Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images.

Those little black things that you're used to enjoying on a bagel actually come from the opium poppy plant, and they can contain traces of highly addictive alkaloids found in morphine, codeine, and cocaine. Because of this, the sale of poppy seeds has been banned in several countries around the world, from Taiwan to Saudi Arabia.

Chefs at dozens of restaurants in China have been adding poppy capsules to their heavily flavored foods.

The New York Times reported last week that 36 restaurants and snack bars in China were busted for using poppy capsules in their food, bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase "addictively delicious." They were putting poppies in dishes like hot pot and fried chicken, and even mixing them into their sauces.

It's one of the dirtiest secrets of the Chinese food industry.

Photo illustration by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

The seeming complete lack of concern for customer safety displayed by the owners of these restaurants is pretty upsetting. "It's quite effective," one poppy seller told Xinhaunet. "Many small-scale hotpot restaurants frequently buy from me. It keeps the customers coming back for more."

The worst part, though, is that poppy capsule consumption can have terrible long-term effects on health. According to Zhao Lan, a doctor with the Third People's Hospital in Chengdu, Sichuan, consuming large amounts of poppy capsules can lead to ill effects from chronic intoxication to long-term nervous system damage.


Well put, Mr. Situation. Well put. GIF via "Jersey Shore."

This rampant problem goes back to one key issue facing China's food system: lack of governmental regulation.

While the penalty for using poppy capsules in food may not seem that significant (up to 15 days in prison and a fine of up to $455), this drama is a sterling example of why government regulation matters everywhere.

Here in the U.S., it's a sad truth that we know very little about the foods we put into our bodies on a daily basis (just ask Michael Pollan about that). Instead, we trust that the businesses selling them would never do anything to intentionally harm us.

But imagine if a major fast food chain could sell us whatever they considered to be "burgers," or imagine if nutrition labels suddenly became a thing of the past! It would be salmonella-infested chaos.

Government regulations do actually protect us, the little people, from being exploited by the businesses we place our trust (and cash) in.

We tend to look at political issues like regulation as black and white, but the reality of regulatory systems is far more complex. Yes, our government may be frustratingly inefficient and wasteful at times, but it can also serve as a reassuring presence in the face of injustices — you know, like it was created to do. To put it in "Game of Thrones" terms, government is basically our Castle Black, protecting us from the horrors that lie beyond The Wall.

So that Five Guys burger you had for lunch that didn't make you sick? The Chipotle burrito that didn't give you E. coli? You can thank government regulation (and the efforts of the CDC) for those. Ain't that right, Pauly D?


GIF via, you guessed it, "Jersey Shore."

More
LUSH

Handmade cosmetics company Lush is putting its money where its mouth is and taking a bold step for climate change action.

On September 20 in the U.S. and September 27 in Canada, Lush will shut the doors of its 250 shops, e-commerce sites, manufacturing facilities, and headquarters for a day, in solidarity with the Global Climate Strike taking place around the world. Lush is encouraging its 5000+ employees "to join this critical movement and take a stand until global leaders are forced to face the climate crisis and enact change."

Keep Reading Show less
Planet
Photo by Annie Bolin on Unsplash

Recent tragic mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton have sparked a lot of conversation and action on the state level over the issue of gun control. But none may be as encouraging as the most recent one, in which 145 CEOs signed a letter urging the U.S. Senate to take action at their level.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

The fine folks at Forbes are currently falling all over themselves trying to clean up the mess they created by publishing their 2019 list of 100 Most Innovative Leaders.

The problem: The list included 99 men and one woman. For those not so good with the math, that means according to Forbes, only 1% of the country's most innovative leaders are female.

Have you ever watched a movie that's so abysmally bad that you wonder how it ever even got made? Where you think, "Hundreds and hundreds of people had to have been directly involved in the production of this film. Did any of them ever think to say, 'Hey, maybe we should just scrap this idea altogether?"

That's how it feels to see a list like this. So how did Forbes come up with these results?

Keep Reading Show less
Innovation

There's something delicious and addicting about those trendy recipe videos circulating online. You've seen them before: the quick and beautiful play-by-plays of mouthwatering dishes you wish you were eating at this very moment.

The recipes seem so simple and magical and get you thinking, "Maybe I can make that five-cheese bacon lasagna tonight." And before you know it, you're at the store loading up on Colby-Monterey Jack (or is that just me?).

For some families, though, the ingredients and final product look a little different. As part of Hunger Action Month, the hunger-relief organization Feeding America is using our obsession with cooking videos to highlight the reality many food-insecure families face when they sit down for dinner: hunger, and no food in sight.

By putting a twist on the bite-sized food videos all over the internet, they hope to raise awareness that hunger is an unacceptable reality for too many families.

Keep Reading Show less
Family
True
Gates Foundation: The Story of Food