McDonald's takes heat for 'pink slime'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 February, 2012, 12:00am


A credibility crisis may be looming for McDonald's on the mainland, where many consumers are sceptical of a company statement issued to reassure the public about controversial ingredients used in its burgers.

At the centre of the row is 'pink slime', which refers to boneless lean beef trimmings that are left over after all the choice cuts are removed. Pink slime is used for dog and chicken food in Britain, but is legal for human consumption in the United States after it is treated with ammonium hydroxide.

The American fast-food restaurant chain announced early last week, along with its competitors, a decision to remove the ingredient from its hamburgers in the US.

That was followed by a statement from McDonald's China saying local consumers had nothing to worry about - because the material had never been used in China.

'McDonald's China does not use ammonia-treated beef,' the statement said. 'Customers can be assured that McDonald's China uses 100 per cent beef raw materials in its beef patties.

'McDonald's China complies with government requirements and food safety regulations. We also have our own food-safety measures and standards in place throughout our supply chain to help ensure that we serve safe, high-quality food to our customers.'

The attempt at reassurance was met with scepticism in the mainland press and on the internet. A survey on Sina, one of the mainland's largest internet portals, found that as of 7.30pm last night, more than 88 per cent of 18,800 respondents did not believe McDonald's was using 100 per cent pure beef on the mainland.

Some 70 per cent said they would no longer buy McDonald's food.

Some respondents complained that the company's statement, released on its Chinese microblog site, was too brief and lacked a sufficient detail to address their concerns.

An article in the Beijing Times, a mass-market tabloid, noted that the company had failed to explain the meaning of 'meat dregs', the Chinese term for pink slime, and '100 per cent' beef.

The article said mainland consumers often took for granted that large international corporations would have a higher sense of corporate social responsibility and food security, but more often than not, the reality was a let-down.

It urged McDonald's China to summon up the courage to give a clear explanation to the public and 'stop hurting people's hearts'.

Betty Tian, a media relations executive at McDonald's China, said it was impossible for the company to ship all its materials from the US all over the world. 'A hefty bulk' of its materials were sourced from local suppliers, with 'many of them up to international standards', she said.