Customers quick to take their medicine at vinegar bar

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 April, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 April, 2003, 12:00am

It may not be the most refreshing drink after a hard day at the office, but patrons at the 'vinegar bar' in downtown Shanghai say their tipple helps stave off Sars.

The Hengshun Vinegar Bar's manager claims vinegar has several medicinal qualities and offers protection from Sars by boosting the immune system.

The bar is set up as a display stand in a department store and customers are offered free samples of vinegar mixed with various fruit juices. Bottles are on sale from 15 yuan (HK$14.20).

'People have always liked our products but since the outbreak of the atypical pneumonia, they are becoming increasingly popular,' the manager said.

But a European doctor said western medicine was not aware of any positive effect of vinegar on the immune system. 'There's no evidence it is beneficial,' said a doctor at Beijing United Family Hospital.

The Chinese do not agree, and the bar's parent company, Jiangsu Hengshun Vinegar Industry, had seen its sales of white vinegar surge by more than 1,200 per cent this year, a spokesman said. The bar has been open for less than a year and the firm plans to open 100 more bars on the mainland in a year.

The company also offers vinegar-based sweets, sanitising vinegar sprays and a recipe book with dozens of vinegar-based prescriptions for various ailments. The book claims that besides boosting the immune system, vinegar can prevent high blood pressure, fight fatigue and reduce wrinkles.

A customer who bought five bottles said: 'Some people in my company are coughing so I came to buy vinegar.'