updated 6/20/2005 11:48:41 AM ET 2005-06-20T15:48:41

A restaurant in Vietnam’s capital has been ordered to stop putting gold into its meals until authorities test the metal’s purity and consult with experts about potential health risks, the official newspaper Vietnam News reported Monday.

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Gold isn’t on the Health Ministry’s list of necessary nutrients, nor is it listed as an approved spice or food additive, the report said.

The Kim Ngan Ngu Thien, or “golden feast,” restaurant opened in January, offering dishes mixed with small amounts of gold, which it claimed enhanced the food’s nutritional value.

In Asian nations such as India, Japan and China, gold has long been regarded as a restorative or as a treatment for diseases such as smallpox, skin ulcers and measles. In Japan, gold foil is added to tea, sake or food.

However, evidence of the metal’s effectiveness is largely anecdotal and official health bodies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration do not support such claims.

Despite the lack of medical proof, owner Nguyen Phuong Anh’s restaurant has attracted about 100 diners a day since its opening, the paper said. The sparkly metal isn’t gratis, however. Gold comes with a 15 percent surcharge.

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