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Chinese Restaurant Admits To Serving 'Pet Food' To Customers But Says They'll Stop

A New Zealand-based Chinese restaurant has recently come under fire after admitting to using "pet food" that is unsafe for human consumption in one of its signature dishes, Otago Daily Times reported.

A customer became concerned about the food served at the Hong Kong Restaurant, located in Invercargill, after discovering recycled boxes displaying pet food labels.

Rachel Bailey came across the discarded boxes behind the back of the location and noticed the concerning labels.

Otago Daily Times | Laura Smith

What was particularly concerning was that the boxes of chicken feet featured a bright yellow label reading "pet food only." Beneath that was a second warning, which read, "Not fit for human consumption."

She posted the photo online and said she was "quite horrified" by the discovery, which she reported to the city's environmental health team.

The Invercargill eatery's owner confirmed the "pet food" was being used it one of its signature dishes, tuo gu ji zhua.

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The meal, which is quite popular in China, sees the bones of chicken feet removed and the remaining meat and skin served for eating.

Lisa Wang, who has owned the restaurant for 12 years, said the dish was only served to customers who asked for it and who can't get the ingredients for the meal anywhere else, explaining that there "aren't too many Chinese shops" in town.

Wang was adamant that the chicken feet her restaurant uses are edible, despite the warning label on the boxes.

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"It is one of our cultural foods," she explained. "If it wasn't edible for human consumption, we wouldn't be selling it."

However, she told a different story to the Invercargill City Council's environmental health team,

Senior environmental health officer Ann Thompson said they visited the restaurant after receiving the complaint from Bailey.

Unsplash | Kyndall Ramirez

"The operators have made it clear that the items labelled as 'pet food' were for personal use only, and not provided to customers, nor offered on their menu," Thompson said, adding that the restaurant has not had any complaints filed in the last 12 months, and no other items of concern were found at the location.

Wang has since said that she will no longer serve the "pet food" to customers and will only make it for herself and her family.

A spokesperson for New Zealand Food Safety said there are rules in place for labeling: "If a product is labelled as unfit for human consumption, it should not be sold to humans for their consumption."

"However," they continued, "if a consumer knows the product is labelled unfit for human consumption, but still chooses to consume it anyway in a private setting — not sold — the Food Act rules do not apply. People should not do this, as the food is not intended for humans and can make you sick."

h/t: Otago Daily Times