Old meat scandal in China spreads

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Joe McDonald Beijing

A suspect meat scandal in China engulfed Starbucks and Burger King yesterday and spread to Japan, where McDonald’s said the Chinese supplier accused of selling expired beef and chicken had provided 20 percent of the meat in its chicken nuggets.

Chinese authorities expanded their investigation of the Shanghai-based meat supplier, Husi Food. A day after Husi’s food processing plant in Shanghai was sealed by the China Food and Drug Administration, the agency said yesterday that inspectors would also look at its facilities and meat sources in five provinces in central, eastern and southern China.

The scandal surrounding Husi Food, which is owned by OSI Group of Aurora, Illinois, has added to a string of safety scares in China over milk, medicines and other goods that have left the public wary of dairies, restaurants and other suppliers.

Food safety violations would be “severely punished”, the food agency said on its website.

Starbucks said yesterday that it had removed from its shelves sandwiches made with chicken that originated at Husi.

Burger King said it had stopped using hamburgers it received from a supplier that used products from Husi.

Pizza restaurant chain Papa John’s International said it had stopped using meat from Husi.

In Japan, McDonald’s said it had stopped selling McNuggets at more than 1 300 outlets that used chicken supplied by Husi. The US chain said the Shanghai company had been supplying chicken to it since 2002.

A Shanghai broadcaster, Dragon TV, reported on Sunday that Husi repackaged old beef and chicken and inserted new expiration dates. It said the meat was sold to McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants.

McDonald’s and Yum Brands, which owns KFC and Pizza Hut, said they had immediately stopped using meat from Husi. A third restaurant chain, Taiwanese-owned Dicos, also said on Monday that it had stopped using meat from Husi.

In a statement, Husi said it was “appalled by the report” and would co-operate with the investigation. It promised to share the results with the public.

“Our management believes this to be an isolated event, but takes full responsibility for the situation and will take appropriate actions swiftly and comprehensively.”

Some companies said they did not deal directly with Husi, but had discovered that their suppliers bought meat from the company.

Food and drug safety is an unusually sensitive issue in China following scandals over the past decade in which infants, hospital patients and others have been killed or sickened by phoney or adulterated milk powder, drugs and other goods.

Foreign fast food chains are seen as more reliable than their Chinese competitors, though local brands have made big improvements in quality.

“If confirmed, the practices outlined in the report are completely unacceptable to McDonald’s,” the company’s Chinese unit said.

KFC is China’s biggest restaurant chain, with more than 4 000 outlets, and it plans to open 700 more this year.

The company, based in Louisville, Kentucky, said: “Food safety is the most important priority for us. We will not tolerate any violations of government laws and regulations from our suppliers.”

KFC sales in China plunged after state television reported in December last year that some of its poultry suppliers had violated rules on drug use in chickens.

KFC overhauled quality controls and eliminated more than 1 000 small poultry producers from its supply network.

In Japan, McDonald’s spokesman Kenji Kaniya said the affected stores were in the Tokyo area and the cities of Nagano and Shizuoka.

Chicken used by McDonald’s stores elsewhere in Japan came from suppliers in Thailand and China, Kaniya said. – Sapa-AP


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