Agricultural minister Nick Brown has branded allegations that the foot and mouth outbreak originated at a Chinese restaurant in the northeast as “racist.” Restaurateurs marched through London over the weekend, expressing their anger over the reports, which have made a serious dent in sales over the past few months.

The theory came to light in a report delivered to MPs on 27 March, stating that leftovers of illegally imported, infected meat served up in a Chinese restaurant were recycled as pig swill for the Ronnie Waugh’s farm in Heddon-on-the-Wall where the epidemic started. At the time, the government’s mood was optimistic, pointing at the report as evidence of its effective handling of the epidemic. Brown’s admission on the weekend however will lead critics to question just how much the government has been able to established about the disease during the fifth week of the crisis. 

Restaurateurs are concerned however that the minister’s words have come too late. Bad publicity is the last thing the nation’s 8000 Chinese food outlets want at the moment, as they are gradually witnessing their share of the massive Asian food market give way to spicier Indian fare and better tasting convenience meals from supermarkets. According to Foodservice Intelligence, about a third of the nation’s restaurants are dedicated to Asian food, but a loss of novelty is causing consumers to gradually turn form the more mature Chinese fare, which was first sold widespread in the UK during the 1950s. 

Representatives from the sector have revealed that restaurants aim to absorb sales losses for the short term, and for the long term they will concentrate on asserting a more positive image and a wider range of foods and prices.

To read’s coverage of the report into the Chinese restaurant alleged to be at the heart of the foot and mouth epidemic, click here.