China food safety

Chinese hotpot chain Xiaolongkan shuts three restaurants after hygiene breaches exposed

Xiaolongkan promises regular inspections after problems including reusing food leftovers were revealed at some of its eateries

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2018, 3:14pm
UPDATED : Friday, 08 June, 2018, 11:13am

A large hotpot chain has shut three of its restaurants in China amid allegations that they reused meat left over by customers, recycled cooking oil and broke hygiene regulations.

The claims against the Xiaolongkan eateries were made in a four-minute long investigative report published on the Chinese video-sharing platform PearVideo.

The firm is the latest hotpot chain in China to face allegation of lax hygiene conditions in recent years.

A spokeswoman for Xiaolongkan – which has more than 700 outlets in China plus three in Singapore, New Zealand and Australia – said it had launched a series of inspections and measures to tackle any problems, with three of the restaurants at the centre of the allegations closed until the issues were resolved.

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A statement released by the company on Tuesday said: “Xiaolongkan believes that food safety is a red line that cannot be crossed. We have deeply looked into the problems and found that we have failed to regulate hygienic conditions and food safety at some restaurants.”

The video published online shows undercover footage of an employee, said to work at one of the firm’s offices in Chengdu in Sichuan province, saying: “Some stores think the [cooking] oil costs too much and they may deliberately cut down on the amount used or recycle some of the oil … this is really inevitable. We can’t guarantee the morality of all those people, right?” she said.

The report also alleges that kitchen staff at one of the company’s restaurants in Changchun in Jilin province strained cooking oil used by customers so it could be reused.

“When all the oil flows [into the pot], we will heat it again,” a member of staff says in the video.

Staff at the Changchun restaurant were also alleged to scrape up stains on the kitchen floor with a meat cleaver used for cooking and of cooking food that had already spoilt.

A man seen in the video points out that a plate of food carried by another member of staff has gone off. A third man who appears to be in charge tells staff to “dip it in pig’s blood and get it coloured”.

At another restaurant, said in the video to be in Harbin in Heilongjiang province, a waiter appears to be shown taking leftover food from a table so it can by recycled and reused.

Chinese hotpot chain Haidilao reopens Beijing branches after food hygiene scandal

The video also purports to show a newly hired member of staff at a restaurant in Nanchang in Jiangxi failing to show a hygiene certificate legally required to allow him to work with food. A member of staff at the same restaurant is also shown washing a mop in a sink where other workers had just washed cups.

The statement from Xiaolongkan said it has ordered all its restaurants across China to install live-stream video systems within three days so customers can see what is happening in the kitchens and to “gradually improve” operating systems.

The local authorities have completed investigations into three of the eateries named in the report and the conclusions will be released later, it said.

The firm will also conduct monthly appraisals for all restaurants and those which fail will be temporarily shut until the problems are rectified, it said. It will also send staff from its head office on secret inspections.

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Two restaurants operated by the chain Haidilao in Beijing were accused last year of serious hygiene problems, including having rats in the kitchens plus plates and cutlery getting washed together with brooms and dirty cloths. The restaurants, along with 25 other branches in the capital, now offer a live-stream video feed from their kitchens to customers in the dining area.

Hotpot restaurants in Chongqing were also banned by local authorities last year from serving soup stock or cooking oil that had been used by previous customers.