My Take

McDonald's delay over tainted meat scandal is hard to swallow

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 July, 2014, 3:08am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 July, 2014, 3:08am

Not sure whether it was his penchant for investigative journalism or mere pangs of hunger which drove him there. But a colleague ventured into a local McDonald's outlet last week, only to be utterly disappointed.

Chicken was completely off the menu as expected. But even his favourites like Big N Tasty burger had taken on a stripped-down form. No onions, cucumber or tomatoes. So it is not only tainted meat they can't find in their warehouse; it seems they can't find veggies to slip into the burgers too.

For three days, McDonald's couldn't find any chicken imported from the Shanghai company linked to the rotten-meat scandal. Once the Hong Kong government banned imports of all products from the firm, McDonald's came clean.

They did have some. Not a few patties, but the Centre for Food Safety found 59 tonnes of meat imported from Husi Food Company. Authorities also say the company imported 380 tonnes of chicken and pork from the same company last year.

With about 250 outlets, the quantity of meat involved may not be that surprising. But what many Hongkongers found difficult to digest is why it took it so long for them to admit they had a problem.

This is a food chain that was welcomed with open arms in 1975 and continues to flourish with patronage from almost all sections of the population. McDonald's gained trust and much custom through the hygiene and efficiency they displayed, compared to some other eateries in Hong Kong. It was even touted that the introduction of McDonalds to the city made others in the food business raise their cleanliness.

That has definitely taken a blow now, especially as it was reported some of their units continued to sell products such as chicken nuggets even after they said they were withdrawing them.

For smaller establishments, throwing away tonnes of ingredients from their warehouses would be a death blow. But given the financial muscle and state-of-the-art system they claim to employ, McDonalds should have easily found the problem and acted quickly to avoid the scandal that is now surrounding them.

One can only hope the reason was some administrative mix-up and not the economics of it.