|By Ralph Jennings, Kyodo News International, Tokyo
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Sep. 20, 2005--BEIJING -- Beijing city inspectors have taken action against an upscale Japanese-managed hotel in Beijing over quality issues of its mooncakes, local media reported Tuesday.
According to the Beijing News, a municipal taskforce on Friday investigated the Hotel New Otani Chang Fu Gong and took punitive action over the 368 yuan (about $45) wine and mooncake gift boxes produced and sold at the hotel. The paper did not say what action was taken.
The New Otani says it was the only Japanese business that baked its own mooncakes for the Sunday mid-autumn festival, selling them to more than 100 Japanese companies as well as Japanese tourists in Beijing.
The Beijing News said one mooncake box, reported by a Chinese customer on Monday, contained a cake that had been opened, with a piece of hair protruding from the cake. A photo accompanying the story showed black spots on the crust of another cake in the box.
The box had no expiration date, according to the report, adding that the customer received a refund and coupons to buy more food or drinks from the hotel.
Hotel publicity director Liu Jiayu said during the Friday inspection, authorities asked the hotel to quit selling wine with its mooncakes according to city regulations. She said the hotel had sold the cakes with wine because customers wanted them that way and the hotel had leftover boxes from last year, when it was legal to sell the two together.
Liu rejected claims of poor quality cakes, saying the customer who reported hair or black spots might have been describing cakes he bought last year. She called the Beijing News report "erroneous." "This absolutely can't be," she said. "There are absolutely no quality problems with our mooncakes." According to the Beijing News, a hotel vice director acknowledged the Chinese consumer was right but said he had "nothing to say" about the cake defects.
Japan's CCI Co. owns a minority share of the 14-year-old Sino-Japanese joint venture hotel, apartment and restaurant complex, which is managed by the Hotel New Otani Group.
The New Otani bakes its own mooncakes, a puck-shaped pastry, because they thought mass-produced cakes on the Chinese market looked better than they taste, Liu said last week.
Forty workers, including quality-control staff, make the traditional treats around the clock in the two months leading up to the mid-autumn festival, hotel bakery director Jiang Zhongyong said.
Mooncake sanitation and fair pricing are issues every year as consumers and Chinese media expose sales of expired or poorly prepared pastries.
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