International brands like Starbucks and Burger King have been dragged into a reputation crisis after one of their suppliers were found supplying expired meat, in the latest nationwide food safety scandal that threatens to disrupt supply chains of fast-food stores across China.
Shanghai-based Husi Food, a subsidiary of Illinois-based OSI Group, was accused of repackaging expired chicken and beef, meat materials supplied to fast-food chains such as KFC, McDonald's and Pizza Hut outlets in China.
The revelation, a result of a two-month undercover investigation by Dragon TV in Shanghai, has gained traction among Chinese media and forced McDonald's and KFC to apologize to its customers. Since the allegations were made public, the two chains and Pizza Hut have announced plans to remove the products in question from their menus.
On Tuesday, Starbucks said some of its stores sold products containing chicken sourced from Husi, adding that the company had stopped selling the food item called “Chicken Apple Sauce Panini”. Burger King also said it had taken all products supplied by Husi off its shelves.
In response to the latest food scare, the State Drug and Food Administration, which overseas food safety issues, has vowed a thorough investigation. The Husi processing plant was closed down by Shanghai authorities.
In recent years, China has seen a string of food safety scandals, including a 2008 milk contamination that killed six infants and left some 300,000 babies hospitalised.
Last month, China said it would impose higher fines for food safety violators and sack the top local official should the violations happen frequently. Chinese premier Li Keqiang said in March that his administration would tackle food safety violations with “a heavy fist”.
Hema Hen Wenrou speculated on popular Twitter-like Sina Weibo what impact the investigation could have for China:
Let's wait for the investigation results. If violators were indeed punished severely, it would be a major wake-up call for food safety in China.
A Weibo user from southwestern province of Guangxi praised the journalists who work to uncover food safety issues:
There is the issue of lack of social conscience by the companies, also a lack of supervision by the state. When can Chinese be assured of eating out? I've also seen the dedication of journalists, they are the eyes of our society. I salute all of them.
Jinzi Zai Sahuan raised his doubts about the food supply chain in China:
It occurred to me, why does Husi have so much expired food? Some of it even rotten? If what was said in the news is true that it's supplying a couple of fast-food chains, it then shouldn't have so much expired meat in stock. I want to ask if this chicken and beef was bought elsewhere and then reprocessed at the company?
China is supplying fast food chains with meat now, too? My days of eating fast food, which I hardly ever did, are over.