'Pet food' concern at diner

A woman in Invercargill became concerned on Monday when she discovered a box in a restaurant's...
A woman in Invercargill became concerned on Monday when she discovered a box in a restaurant's recycling labelled "not fit for human consumption". Photo: Laura Smith
A Chinese restaurant is serving up cooked "pet food" as part of a dish in its Invercargill eatery.

The owner of the Hong Kong Restaurant, in Esk St, confirmed it had been been selling customers "pet food" marked "not for human consumption" when it was requested, as part of a dish known as tuo gu ji zhua - a popular meal in China where the bones of chicken feet were taken out and the meat and skin is eaten.

Lisa Wang, who has owned the restaurant for 12 years, said it was only sold to Chinese customers when it was asked for, and they were planning on making it for themselves.

"In Invercargill there aren't too many Chinese shops, and they really want to have this and tell us to get them if we can."

She said, via daughter Sammi Li who was helping translate, she believed it was edible - "it is one of our cultural foods ... if it wasn't edible for human consumption we wouldn't be selling it".

This contradicts what she told Invercargill City Council environmental health team.

Senior environmental health officer Ann Thompson said it was alerted to a claim made on social media by a concerned resident - who had spotted boxes labelled "pet food" outside the restaurant.

A member of Ms Thompson's team visited the restaurant on Wednesday.

"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," she said.

"We reminded the operator that, as per their food control plan, the only food that should be stored and prepared on site is food which is for sale to customers."
Ms Thompson said they did not find any other items of concern, and when the Hong Kong restaurant's last verification was undertaken in December 2018 it received an "acceptable" assessment.

There had been no complaints in the last 12 months and she said verifications resulted in either an "acceptable" or "not acceptable" assessment.

On Monday, Rachael Bailey took a photo of the box marked "pet food only".

She posted her concerns online and said she was "quite horrified".

Duty manager James Wang told the Otago Daily Times on Wednesday it was also used in another dish. "It's used in a cold, spicy dish - in China it's popular, but only Chinese here eat it."

Ms Wang said she believed if the customers knew where it had come from and knew it was marked as pet food, they would still eat it.

However, from now on she would only make it for her family and not sell it to customers.

No-one had previously asked where it had come from.

Brinks food service sales and planning manager Norman Wanhalla said when it was packed, the product was marked not fit for human consumption because "there is no guarantee it is 100% completely clean".

A New Zealand Food Safety spokesperson said "if a product is labelled as unfit for human consumption, it should not be sold to humans for their consumption."

"However, 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."

There were consequences for a business that sold products that it should not.

A food safety officer would investigate, and the business could face enforcement actions.


If the diner had genuine concerns, why did she not take them up with the restaurant or 'health authorities', rather than seek to humiliate the restaurant online? Similarly, ODT, there is a big difference between 'pet food' (used in the headline) and 'chicken feet designated as pet food' - pet food we tend think of as a product produced for pet consumption.

While the restaurants actions aren't to be condoned, it was likely done out of misunderstanding/different cultural norms rather than malice.

Do they really deserve the potential harm to their business this kind of publicity could cause?

The potential harm if the owners of Hong Kong Restaurant decided that. This is a nice cheap way to make chicken stock or worse chicken and corn soup I care. If you are Chinese Japanese Libyoness Kiwi or Maroi Pet food only. Aint good crap and only dogs should eat it Does the business deserve to the potential harm HELL yes should it be shut down Hell yes Will the council do anything about this no not in election year. As for the ODT should have put what they Felt like for a heading to make sure everyone reads this and everyone stays away from Hong Kong Restaurant. Thank you ODT for pointing this helping to keep Invercargill honest






Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter