Chinese foods like century eggs (left) and fermented bean paste may not look nice, but are very popular in China. Photo: Wikipedia

Two Chinese restaurant owners were detained by Italian police after they imported 800 preserved eggs, commonly known as century eggs or 100-year-old eggs. The police claimed that the eggs were “not fit for humans”, according to various mainland and Italian media sources. The police reportedly launched the operation to ensure food safety in restaurants prior to the upcoming Easter holidays.

The actions affecting the two Chinese owners at Misterbianco in Sicily were part of the Italian hygiene bureau’s efforts to verify the legality of imported goods.

All 800 century and salty eggs were seized after the importers failed to declare the source of the eggs, and because the eggs did not have labels that satisfied European Union guidelines. Italian police also deemed century eggs as not fit for human consumption, noting that they are forbidden from being sold in Italy and elsewhere in the European Union.

This comes as a shock to more than a billion Chinese who regularly enjoy the egg as a pungent appetizer served with pickled ginger, or cooked in congee.

Century eggs are available at grocery stores across China, as well as many Asian supermarkets in countries like the United States.

Apparently there is considerable diversity in tastes between the east and the west when it comes to century eggs. The Chinese like to believe that the black eggs which have been preserved in clay for months represent the very essence of their food culture. The eggs are said to be rich in minerals and good for one’s health.

However, some mainland Internet commentators said foreigners do not understand Chinese culinary art. In 2011, century eggs were voted as the most revolting food of the year by CNN, whose reporter claimed they tasted awful.

Century eggs represent only the latest example of cross-cultural dining conflicts. Last November, Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana became embroiled in a controversial advertising campaign that featured Chinese using chopsticks to eat pizza and spaghetti.

Read: D&G apologetic, but online posts have kept Chinese row alive

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