Korean restaurants still recycle left-overs
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Korean restaurants still recycle left-overs

So, you’ve always suspected that restaurants recycle their left-over banchan (side dishes)? Congratulations, you’re right!

A study has found that food products continue to be re-used. Ninety-eight well-known restaurants, including Kimbap Cheonguk, 밥&죽, and 지호한방삼계탕, were caught by health authorities.

According to Korea Food and Drug Administration statistics released to the office of Democratic Party National Assembly Representative Lee Nak-yeon, 98 restaurants nationwide were caught re-using left-over food last year, showing that the practice continues the same as ever.


A South Korean worker packs kimchi, a traditional pungent vegetable dish, at a local market in Seoul, Monday, July 31, 2006. Pic: AP.

The crackdown on re-use of left-overs (잔반재사용) began in July of 2009, with local organizations inspecting restaurants nationwide and reporting their results to the KFDA.

According to the report, in 2009 there were 91 restaurants (out of 344,411) caught, fewer than the 98 (out of 426,539) in 2008, with fewer being inspected in Daegu, Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do, and Jeollabuk-do, but more were caught and, in particular, in Daegu in 2009 fewer were inspected but more were found to be in violation. Also, in Gangwon-do, Chungcheongbuk-do, and Chungcheongnam-do in 2009 more were inspected and the number caught exploded, showing the need for more oversight.

The restaurants that were caught include well-known chains such as Kimbap Cheonguk, 밥&죽, and 지호한방삼계탕, and some, such as 문가네신토불이보쌈 in the Myeongryun-dong area of Busan and 돌섬 in the Habjeong-dong area of Pyeongtaek, were caught both last year and in 2009.

Rep. Lee Nak-won said that “the re-use of left-over food in restaurants is a serious issue as it violates the trust of the consumers who go to them… those who operate restaurants which handle food for our citizens must understand their special responsibility and prepare a good environment in their businesses… authorities must exercise proper oversight and completely root out this problem.”