​China Food Scandal Spreads To Meat Supplier Selling Tainted Products

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July 22, 2014

China’s food scandal spreads to Starbucks, Burger King, McDonald’s, and other chains. The food scandal is at the heart of Aurora-based meat supplier OSI Group, which supplies beef, pork and poultry to a variety of chains around the world. The company was founded in 1909 and is one of the largest private companies in the United States.

Shanghai authorities on Sunday shut down an OSI plant — a food supplier to McDonald’s and KFC in China — for mixing out-of-date meat with fresh product, re-labelling expired goods and other quality problems following an investigative report by a local television station.

“On Tuesday, Starbucks said some of its cafes previously sold products containing chicken originally sourced from Shanghai Husi, a firm that was shut down on Sunday by local regulators after a TV report showed staff using expired meat and picking up meat from the floor to add to the mix,” Reuters reports. US coffee chain Starbucks confirmed it was supplied chicken by the factory, but had removed the product from 12 provinces and a major municipality in China. Burger King, another customer, said it had removed the meat from its restaurants.

A Tokyo-based spokesman for McDonald’s Japan told AFP the restaurant chain had sourced about 20 percent of its McNuggets from the Shanghai factory, and had suspended sales of its product since Monday.

Around 500 of McDonald’s restaurants in Japan, a sixth of the total, had temporarily stopped selling McNuggets amid the scandal while the company obtained alternative supplies, he added.

Chinese police were questioning “several” employees of the OSI subsidiary, which is called Shanghai Husi Food Co., in the case, the Shanghai Daily newspaper said. Police could not be reached for comment.

Separately, the China Food and Drug Administration had ordered an investigation into the scandal and an inspection of OSI’s factories nationwide.

OSI’s Shanghai factory, set up in 1996, has more than 500 workers with five production lines for food items including pork, beef and chicken, according to the group’s website.

OSI is a long-time supplier to McDonald’s in China, starting from 1992, it said.

The US company said on Monday that it was “appalled” by the allegations while announcing it had formed a team to investigate the scandal.

McDonald’s in China said it had “immediately” stopped using the factory’s food products while restaurant operator Yum said separately its KFC and Pizza Hut establishments had also halted use of meat from the Shanghai plant.

In an editorial, China’s Global Times newspaper took aim at McDonald’s and Yum in the scandal for failing to supervise their suppliers.

“Famous international brands have not adopted a dedicated attitude toward Chinese consumers,” said the newspaper, known for its nationalistic editorial stance.

“Perhaps they believed the Chinese market is a rough place, and that service that is ‘just good enough’ can work in China.”

The official Xinhua news agency accused OSI and foreign fast food chains of having double standards towards food safety.

“The out-of-date meat was given firstly to the Chinese market, sparking doubts over double standards on food safety among the supplier, or maybe fast-food tycoons,” it said Monday.

China has been rocked by a series of food and product safety problems due to lax enforcement of regulations and corner-cutting by producers.

The worst scandal occurred in 2008 when the industrial chemical melamine was found to have been illegally added to dairy products, killing at least six babies and making 300,000 people ill.

Foreign milk powder and other overseas food brands have gained sales in China since consumers believe they are safer and subject to stricter standards. These and other food scandals are being treated as critical.