Hanoi inspects "rubber' cuttlefish

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Rumors that ready-to-eat dried cuttlefish for sale in Hanoi was made of rubber prompted health inspectors to confiscate a variety of samples fro tests Thursday.

The cuttlefish was taken from two shops selling dried foods on Bach Mai Street, Hai Ba Trung District. The 2.5 kilograms of the cuttle had been pre-cooked and torn into thin, long strings.

One shop owner said she bought the product at Dong Xuan market. But she could not produce documents proving its origins.

Nguyen Viet Cuong, chief inspector from Hanoi Health Department, told local newswire Dan Tri  that the purpose of the tests were to determine if the cuttlefish was real or not.

Cuong said he had received some information that indicated that the products seized were in fact not made from the sea creature but were instead cellulose soaked in seasonings.

Hien, an office worker in Dong Da District, said she had shared a pack of the cuttlefish with her colleagues, one of which suspected it was rubber.

"Everyone said it was tasty. But actually it was not tough like the whole dried cuttle that needs cooking.  It broke up before I chewed," Hien was quoted by local newswire Vnexpress as saying Friday.

The newswire took Hien's cuttle sample to the Chemical Institute at Vietnam Science Institute for testing on Thursday. An expert at the institute said the product didn't contain any protein or rubber. The specialist said it might possibly have been a kind of cellulose.

The expert requested anonymity, saying the tests were not yet conclusive.

The cuttlefish strings were very pink, soft and caught fire easy, Vnexpress found in an inspection.

A vendor at Nghia Tan Market said the cuttle was brought from sellers in Quang Ninh Province.

But she could not explain why the shredded cuttle was so much cheaper than the whole cuttlefish.

The cuttle strings sell for VND140,000-200,000 (US$7.37-10.52) a kilogram while the whole dried cuttlefish sells for VND350,000-400,000 a kilo.

Several markets in Ho Chi Minh City have been selling a kind of ready-to-eat cuttlefish from the central coastal Nha Trang town for VND240,000-260,000 a kilo. The product is different from that in Hanoi. One vendor in Nha Trang said much of the cuttlefish there was imported from China.

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