Police in Beijing have detained a reporter after he allegedly faked a story claiming that buns stuffed with cardboard were being sold.
The report sparked a series of checks that found no cardboard in buns
Suspect Zi Beijia's hidden camera footage appeared to show people making the pork buns with cardboard soaked in caustic soda.
But it emerged that Zi bought the ingredients himself and asked four migrant workers to make the buns.
The story ran on new outlets around the world, including the BBC News website.
The controversy follows a series of genuine food scares in China involving toxic fish and egg yolks coloured with a cancer-causing dye.
Police said that Zi had been investigating the quality of pork buns and finding nothing to report had filmed the fake story under pressure to produce a result.
Beijing Television made a public apology during its evening news broadcast for the "vile impact on society".
The report sparked a spot check of more than two dozen vendors by health authorities but none were found to contain cardboard.