Fast-food giant KFC says it will co-operate with a government investigation into the chicken sold in its outlets after a China Central Television programme last night revealed that some of KFC's suppliers in Shandong had put illegal drugs in chickenfeed to make the birds gain weight faster.
The CCTV report, which it said was based on a year of undercover reporting, found that chicken farms had lights turned on around the clock to make the birds eat non-stop and grow faster, with a chicken growing from 30 grams to 3.5kg in just 40 days. Farmers had given at least 18 kinds of antibiotics to chickens so that they would not become ill.
A farmer in Gaomi said he would also mix a hormone into the feed and the birds would become so fat that some could not even walk, CCTV reported.
Another farmer said they had to change antibiotics from time to time after the chickens developed resistance to the drugs.
Farmers said their chickens were bought by the Liuhe Group, which is based in Qingdao and supplies KFC. Liuhe reportedly sells 40 tonnes of chicken a month to KFC. Its Pingdu branch is under investigation.
Similar breaches have been found at another major supplier to KFC and McDonald's, Tengzhou -based Wintop Food, state media reported.
The CCTV programme said that when farmers sent chickens to be slaughtered, workers would fabricate records about how they were raised before they were shipped off to the Yum! Brands logistics centre in Shanghai. A worker at the centre told CCTV they did not conduct any checks before sending the chicken to Yum! Brands outlets, which include KFC and Pizza Hut.
On its microblog, KFC said it had stopped buying chickens from Liuhe in August.
KFC said it inspected its suppliers each year and they should have passed strict assessments. It would also test for drug residue.
"KFC attaches great importance to the contents of the media report and will actively co-operate with the relevant government departments' investigation," KFC said. "If [we] find out that our suppliers have conducted any illegal activity, [we] will handle it strictly."
McDonald's said every batch of chickens in its products met standards, with quality ensured by independent laboratories.
"We will buy raw food materials from the suppliers after strict screening," McDonald's said. "Our chicken products are in line with regulations on food quality."
Shanghai's Food and Drug Inspection Administration said it was checking Yum! Brands' quality inspection procedures.
The Agricultural Ministry said it would investigate.