HA NOI, Vietnam - The Viet Nam Food Administration is testing locally available Chinese hot pot spices to confirm whether they contain a cancer-causing substance, said director Nguyen Cong Khan.
The agency is conducting the tests following rumours that similar spices sold in China included cancer-causing chemicals.
Results of the test would be published within the next seven days, according to the administration.
In the meantime, health officials have warned consumers to choose only those spices where the origin is clearly marked.
Deputy head of the food administration Nguyen Thanh Phong said the quality of these Chinese spices had never before been tested in Viet Nam.
According to another deputy head, Pham Thi Ngoc, a recent inspection of 15 stalls in Ha Noi's Dong Xuan Market had indicated that Chinese hot pot spices were easy to obtain.
Inspectors also found that stall owners had added handwritten Vietnamese, labels to spices coming from China.
The owners of the stalls explained that although regulations stated imported goods had to carry printed sub-labels in Vietnamese, their spice packets arrived without them.
Each spice packet costs VND4,000-12,000 (S$0.04 - S$0.07).
Though some customers were worried about the rumours of a possible cancer-causing ingredient in the spices, others had chosen to ignore them.
"Hot pot streets" in Ha Noi, including Phung Hung,Ngo Tram, Hang Giay and Cao Ba Quat are still drawing crowds.
"The colder weather gets, the more people come to our hot pot store," said one owner of a hot pot stall in Phung Hung Street.
When asked about the stock his stall used, the owner said that only domestically produced spices were included.
A customer of the stall, Tran Thu Phuong, said she had read the rumours in the newspapers but still ate there because the authorities had yet to come to a conclusion about the spices.
But Doan Hoang Giang said that although he and his colleagues had often eaten from street stalls in the past, they now opted for different food.
The Food Administration has informed health departments nationwide to keep a close watch on food additives, and especially on hotpot spices.