Popular noodle vending machines fall short of bylaws

A "self-cooking" noodle machine gaining popularity at some office buildings in Shanghai has been suspended by the city's food watchdog for being involved in operation beyond scope.
Chen Xihan

A line forms at one of the instant noodle machines before they were shut down by authorities.

A "self-cooking" noodle machine, popular in some Shanghai office buildings, has been suspended by the city's food watchdog for being involved in "operation beyond scope". 

The machines, known as "Yo-Kai Express", can automatically boil and serve a bowl of noodles in 45 seconds, after customers select flavors and make a digital payment.

There were two flavors of noodle available — sour soup with beef, and tonkotsu ramen — at 9.9 yuan a serving (US$1.50).

But because the noodles are half-cooked before they are put into the machine and then fully cooked after a customer makes an order, the vending machine is technically considered to produce "freshly made food", for which the company is not licensed. 

The Shanghai Food and Drug Administration suspended the service.

Customers are hoping the machines make a comeback, though, with the noodles receiving rave reviews.

"The noodles are much more delicious than instant noodles, and they're convenient to buy," Lydia Zheng, a white-collar worker, told Shanghai Daily.

"We don't have a canteen and there are not many dining options nearby," she added.

At Huaxin Plaza, an office building on Guilin Road in Xuhui District, Shanghai Daily found there were long queues in front of the machine at lunch time today, just hours before the machines were shut down.

There were three noodle vending machines in Xuhui and Hongkou District, too, which were also suspended.

It is not yet known if the machines will make a comeback.

Chen Xihan

A man scans the QR code to order a noodle from the self-service machine.

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