Half of mainland consumers no longer trust Western fast-food companies after scandal

Up to 69 per cent of Chinese people taking part in online poll say they will stop eating at KFC and McDonald's after news that expired meat was allegedly sold to the Western companies

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 July, 2014, 6:02pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 July, 2014, 6:07pm

Exactly half of all the Chinese consumers who took part in an online poll today say they no longer trust Western fast-food companies following the new scandal surrounding rotten meat.

The survey, carried out by Sina Shanghai, had attracted more than 1,800 respondents by 2.45pm today.

In a second Sina survey started yesterday, featuring 25,000 respondents up to 2.45pm today, 77 per cent believed the restaurant brands affected had been aware of Husi’s faulty practices, while 69 per cent said they would no longer dine at the restaurants run by the Western companies.

77 per cent of people in the poll said they believed the affected Western fast-food restaurant brands had been aware of Husi’s faulty practices. Also 69 per cent said they would no longer dine at the restaurants run by the Western companies.
Sina shangai online poll

China’s food safety agency has announced a nationwide investigation into processing factories and meat suppliers used by the Shanghai Husi Food Company, which is accused of selling expired beef and chicken to McDonald’s, KFC, Starbucks and Pizza Hut.

The scandal was revealed by a Shanghai television station.

Other food companies that have sourced their meat from Husi include the Swedish furniture retailer, Ikea, and the Chinese fast-food chain, Dicos.

The China Food and Drug Administration said that its food and safety inspectors will look, not only at Husi’s facility in Shanghai, but also processing sites and meat sources in five other provinces in central, eastern and southern China.

Violations will be “severely punished”, the agency said on its website.

A crisis in confidence in China’s food industry emerged after melamine was found in domestically produced baby formula in 2008. That scandal left 300,000 babies sick and resulted in six premature deaths.

Other stories including fake eggs, diseased pork, recycled oil, mislabelled meat have only led to further calls for industry reform.

With new food scandals arising every few months on the mainland, Western fast-food brands are generally seen as being more trustworthy than local restaurants.

However, this trust may have been badly affected by this new scandal surrounding Husi.

KFC is still recovering from its drug-laced chicken crisis in December 2012, when social media reported that the restaurant had served poultry, which contained unapproved levels of antibiotics. These reports led to a boycott by Chinese diners, and a fall in KFC’s sales.

The “I Commit” trust campaign, launched by KFC following the 2012 scandal, has also been criticised on social media websites, with people claiming that the company has lied to consumers.

Many consumers believe they really have no alternative choice in a fast-food restaurant market that has frequent food safety violations.

However, 39 per cent of people taking part in the latest Sina poll said they did not care about the latest food scandal and that they were used to poor food safety standards in the mainland’s fast food industry.

Some consumers also joked that Western fast-food would now be safer than ever to eat because of the current investigation into food quality.

Commentators have also criticised the China Food and Drug Administration for failing to discover the food safety violations by itself during its inspections.

Consumers have also demanded that the offending suppliers face severe punishments.

On Sunday, Shanghai food authorities shut Husi’s factory, owned by a US-based company, as it launched an investigation into claims that Husi falsified the expiry date on some of its meat products sold to the international fast-food chains, McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut.

The move followed a news report on Shanghai’s Dragon TV, which exposed the alleged malpractice at the factory.