A sign at a McDonald's branch in Shanghai tells customers there is only a limited menu available after a tainted food scandal involving meat supplier Husi Food. The head of US-based OSI Group, the parent company of the Chinese distributor, flew to Shanghai to apologise in person. Photo: Reuters

Shanghai - McDonald’s outlets across China had yanked their flagship burgers from the menu, the company said yesterday, as the American owner of a key supplier embroiled in an expired meat scandal offered consumers a personal apology.

Authorities in Shanghai last week shut a plant owned by privately held OSI Group after a television report alleging it mixed out-of-date meat with fresh product. Police later detained five officials from the OSI subsidiary which operated the plant, Shanghai Husi Food.

McDonald’s, one of the factory’s many customers in China, had stopped using food from all OSI plants in the country “after listening to voices from all parties”, it said in a statement.

“Some restaurants in China have therefore experienced shortages of some products,” it added, but gave no details.

It did not say whether the chain had identified any food using expired meat.

McDonald’s has more than 2 000 restaurants in China.

Some outlets in Shanghai and Beijing pulled Big Macs, Chicken McNuggets and other items off the menu.

An operator from the McDonald’s national delivery hotline said that beef and chicken items were unavailable in the Shanghai area, although fish and pork could be ordered.

At a McDonald’s in central Beijing, counter staff told customers that the branch only had the Filet-O-Fish sandwich.

At cash registers, there were signs in both Chinese and English reading: “We regret to let you know that currently we will only be able to provide a limited menu at our restaurant.”

The OSI Shanghai factory’s customers in China included McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, coffee chain Starbucks, Burger King, 7-Eleven convenience stores and Papa John’s Pizza, according to the companies.

The owner of OSI Group, based in Aurora, Illinois, apologised in person to Chinese consumers at a news conference in Shanghai yesterday.

“What happened at Husi Shanghai was completely unacceptable and I hope that you will accept my personal and most sincere apology. I am very, very sorry,” chairman and chief executive Sheldon Lavin said. “We accept that there must be some consequences and we take responsibility for the actions of those individuals working for our company.”

The company announced several executive appointments to help oversee compliance.

“Our investigation has found issues that are absolutely inconsistent with our internal requirements for the highest standards, process and policies,” David McDonald, OSI’s president and chief operating officer, said.

State media said last week that authorities had confirmed allegations originally aired by Shanghai station Dragon TV that the factory used expired meat and mislabelled products.

The “bad meat” scandal, as it has been called by Chinese media, has spread to Japan and Hong Kong.

Shanghai’s Communist Party secretary, Han Zheng, the city’s most senior leader, said authorities would be candid to the public about the investigation into Shanghai Husi. All companies that flouted the rules in Shanghai would be punished according to the law, the local government said in comments distributed to the media.

Shanghai Husi had changed production dates on some meat pies, the Shanghai Municipal Food and Drug Administration said. – Sapa-AFP