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China Food & Drinks

Japanese Restaurant in Shanghai Faces Backlash for Offering “Anti-Radiation” Meals

Amidst the panic surrounding Fukushima, this Shanghai-based Japanese-style restaurant ventured into a new business approach.

Manya Koetse

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Since August 24th, when Japan started the release of treated radioactive water from the damaged Fukushima power plant into the ocean, a myriad of related topics have surged across Chinese social media platforms.

The dissemination of news concerning the Fukushima wastewater discharge, amplified by Chinese media outlets, has sparked considerable unrest in various ways.

Among these is the phenomenon of salt hoarding. There have been dozens of posts on Weibo showing extreme examples of people stockpiling salt. In some places, people queued for up to an hour to buy salt while early-bird shoppers left stores with heavily laden shopping carts.

China also saw instances of salt hoarding in 2011, just after the tsunami and Fukushima disaster. Some people equate ‘salt’ to ‘sea salt’ and they are concerned that salt stocks could potentially become contaminated due to the Fukushima wastewater. But there is also a general belief that salt consumption could provide protection against exposure to radioactivity.

Nonetheless, regular table salt does not actually provide protection against radiation, and consuming excessive amounts of iodized salt could potentially pose health risks on its own.

While scientists and critics find the recent panic to be unfounded – emphasizing that Japan’s actions fall within the safety limits of the Atomic Energy Agency and that the environmental impact is minimal, – a prevailing skepticism toward Western powers combined with official media boosting news concerning the discharge of radioactive water, ensures that Fukushima-related fears and misconceptions remain pervasive.

The concerns surrounding Fukushima have already had negative consequences for many business owners in China, especially for some Japanese-style restaurant owners who felt the need to change their theme, change their name, or explicitly state that their ingredients are not actually coming from Japan.

Meanwhile, there are also some who are trying to capitalize on the situation for profit.

One Japanese-style restaurant in Shanghai’s Hongqiao recently starting offering a so-called “anti radiation” set meal (“防辐射”套餐). The set meal, which was first introduced on online platform Dianping, included ingredients such as tomatoes, edamame, tofu, and spinach.

The Japanese restaurant introduced the menu on the 25th, a day after Japan started discharging the first batch of wastewater into the ocean. While various Chinese media write that there is no scientific basis for the radiation-blocking effects of these foods, the restaurant stated they no longer use any products from Japan and that ingredients used are all sourced locally.

According to various news posts, the restaurant compiled the menu through research and seeking advice from a nutritionist. The restaurant also associated each dish with particular benefits, including claims of “reducing skin damage” or “stimulating cell growth.”

But soon after the restaurant had put their anti-radiation menu online, it became a big topic of discussion, with one related hashtag on Weibo getting over 140 million views (#上海一日料店上架防辐射套餐#).

“Of course, the next step is to make a quick buck by pushing anti-radiation products,” one popular comment said (using the phrase gē jiǔcài 割韭菜, ‘harvesting chives,’ also explained in our latest newsletter).

Other people wondered why one would order such a menu if you might as well cook the exact same things at home. “Why would I pay 28 yuan for tomato with seasoning?”

Meanwhile, Chinese media outlets, citing legal experts, focused more on the legal problems surrounding the menu, suggesting that making false claims is against the law.

Following the controversy, the restaurant has now pulled its menu offline.

Nonetheless, the restaurant won’t be the first or the last business owner to profit from Fukushima fear and anger. While some are selling anti-radiation tablets, others are selling t-shirts with slogans opposing Japan’s decision to discharge the wastewater.

T-shirt sold on Taobao opposing the “ocean dumping” of Fukushima wastewater (screenshot via Whatsonweibo).

On Weibo, local authorities and media accounts are cautioning consumers against purchasing ineffective products that offer no protection against radiation exposure, reiterating that buying loads of salt will not help either.

By Manya Koetse

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©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Food & Drinks

Chinese Woman with Heartbreak Passes Away after Drinking Bottle of Baijiu

Three friends are held partially responsible for not intervening when the woman consumed 500ml of baijiu.

Manya Koetse

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An incident that happened on the night of May 21, 2023, has become a trending topic on Chinese social media today after a local court examined the case.

A woman named ‘Xiao Qiu’ (alias), a resident of Jiangxi’s Nanchang, apparently attempted to drink her sorrows away after a heartbreaking breakup.

She spent the night at a friend’s house, where she drank about 50cl of baijiu (白酒), a popular Chinese spirit distilled from fermented sorghum that contains between 35% and 60% alcohol. One entire bottle of baijiu, such as Moutai, is usually 50cl.

She was together with three female friends. One of them also consumed baijiu, although not as much, and the two other friends did not drink at all.

As reported by Jiupai News, the intoxicated Xiao Qu ended up sleeping in her car, while one of her sober friends stayed with her. However, at about 5 AM, her friend discovered that Xiao Qiu was no longer breathing. Just about an hour later, she was declared dead at the local Emergency Center. The cause of death was ruled as cardiac and respiratory failure due to alcohol poisoning.

The court found that Xiao Qu’s friends were partly responsible for her death, citing their failure to prevent her excessive drinking and inadequate assistance following her baijiu binge drink session. Each friend was directed to contribute to the compensation for medical expenses and pain and suffering incurred by Qiu’s family.

The friend who also consumed baijiu was assigned a 6% compensation responsibility, while the other two were assigned 3% each.

On Weibo, many commenters do not agree with the court’s decision, asserting that adult individuals should not be held accountable when a friend goes on a drinking spree. Some commenters wrote: “You can tell someone not to drink, but what if they don’t listen?” “Should we record ourselves telling friends not to drink too much from now on?”

This is not the first time for friends to be held liable for an alcohol-related death in China. In 2018, multiple stories went viral involving people who died after excessive drinking at social gatherings.

One case involved a 30-year-old Chinese man who was found dead in his hotel room bathtub in Yangzhou after a formal dinner with friends where he allegedly drank heavily. The man reportedly died of a heart attack. His friends reached a 1 million yuan (±US$157,000) settlement with his family, with the cost shared among the friends who were present during the night.

Surveillance cameras in Jinhua captured how the man was unable to stand or walk after drinking with his friends.

Another case involved a man who died when he was left by his friends at a hotel in Jinhua, Zhejiang province, after heavily drinking at a banquet. Surveillance cameras captured how the man was unable to stand or walk after drinking with his friends. Those friends also paid a compensation together of 610,000 yuan (US$96,000) to the man’s family.

Organisers of an alcohol drinking contest in Henan province were also ordered to pay a compensation of over US$70,000 after one participant died due to excessive alcohol intake in July of 2017.

These cases also triggered online discussions about how Chinese traditional drinking culture often encourages people at the table to drink as much as they can or to exceed their limits; the goal sometimes is to literally “take someone to the ground by drinking.” When someone proposes a toast, everyone at the table is required to finish their glasses, sometimes at a very high pace.

In light of the latest news, some commenters write on Weibo: “No matter what kind of drinking gathering it is, for someone who is already drunk, others should intervene to prevent them from continuing to drink. Even if they invite, provoke, or insist on drinking themselves, they should not be allowed to continue. Otherwise, it not only harms them, you might end up facing legal responsibility yourself.”

Others remind people that overindulging in alcohol when you’re in a state of distress is never a good idea, and that no heartbreak is worth getting drunk over: “There are plenty of other fish in the sea.”

By Manya Koetse

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Brands, Marketing & Consumers

Tsingtao Brewery ‘Pee-Gate’: Factory Worker Caught Urinating in Raw Material Warehouse

The pee incident, that occurred at a subsidiary Tsingtao Beer factory, has caused concerns among consumers.

Manya Koetse

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A video that has circulated on Chinese social media since October 19 shows how an alleged worker at a Tsingtao Beer factory climbs over a wall at the raw material production site and starts to urinate.

The incident reportedly occurred at the Tsingtao Beer Factory No. 3, a subsidiary of the Tsingtao Brewing Company, located in Qingdao, Shandong.

After the video went viral, the Tsingtao Brewery Company issued a statement that they took the incident very seriously and immediately report it to the authorities, who have started an investigation into the case. Meanwhile, the specific batch in production has been halted and shut off.

The incident has caused concern among consumers, and some commenters on social media wonder if this was the first time something like this has happened. “How do we know this hasn’t happened many times before?”

Others speculate about what might have motivated the man to urinate at the production site. There are those who believe that the man is part of an undercover operation orchestrated by a rivaling company, aimed at discrediting Tsingtao. It’s even suggested that there were two ‘moles’ leaking in this incident: one doing the urinating, and the other doing the video ‘leak.’

Meanwhile, there are voices who are critical of Tsingtao, suggesting that the renowned beer brand has not effectively addressed the ‘pee gate’ scandal. It remains uncertain how this incident will impact the brand, but some netizens are already expressing reservations about ordering a Tsingtao beer as a result.

But there are also those who joke about the “pissing incident,” wondering if Tsingtao Beer might soon launch a special “urine flavored beer.”

By Manya Koetse

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Featured photo by Jay Ang (link).

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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