South Korean authorities look into McDonald’s bulgogi burger which has been blamed sickening students
Sales of the locally-inspired burger have been suspended
By Kim Bo-eun
Health authorities in South Korea are inspecting McDonald’s bulgogi burgers, which are alleged to have caused stomach flu in multiple elementary school students in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province.
On Saturday, the global fast-food chain’s Korean unit suspended sales of the locally-inspired burger nationwide.
McDonald’s move came after seven elementary school students and a teacher showed symptoms of enteritis including stomachache, diarrhea and fever, after eating the burger at a McDonald’s store in the southwestern city of Jeonju August 25. One of the students was reportedly hospitalised. They submitted a complaint to McDonald’s August 28.
“We deeply regret that the customers who visited the restaurant in Jeonju experienced any illness and wish the customers a quick recovery,” McDonald’s Korea said in a statement. “The company is cooperating with the government authorities’ investigation to identify the cause of the illness. The suspension of sales is a precautionary measure prior to uncovering the exact cause of the disease.”
The Jeonju health centre has taken samples of the ingredients of the bulgogi burger from the troubled outlet. Results of testing could be announced Wednesday, at the earliest.
The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety has also conducted a separate hygiene inspection of the outlet’s kitchen. The Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention notified the public Saturday to report cases of similar symptoms after eating food at the Jeonju outlet.
The incident occurred only months after McDonald’s was sued on charges of violating food safety regulations by the family of a four-year-old girl based in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, who allegedly developed hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), after eating an undercooked bulgogi patty.
The disease is known to damage the kidneys. The girl is reported to have lost 90 per cent of her kidney function.
Several suits followed, and currently five children are alleged to have developed HUS from McDonald’s burgers.
In early July, the Korea Consumer Agency conducted testing of 38 types of burgers at six fast-food franchises and three convenience store chains. It did not detect E. coli _ which causes the illness _ in any of the burgers, but detected food poisoning bacteria 3.4 times the legal standard in the McDonald’s bulgogi burger.
At the time, McDonald’s attempted to prevent the agency from releasing the results, claiming that the agency did not follow required standards. It filed an injunction with a court against the agency disclosing the results, but this was dismissed.
McDonald’s said the inspector carried the sample in a paper bag without immediately putting it in an airtight container.
The burger scare comes after concern mounted over pesticide-tainted eggs, posing even greater concern over food safety among the public.