China Food Safety

Company at centre of rotten meat scandal promises China division shake-up

The parent company of the Shanghai supplier accused of selling expired meat says its conduct was unacceptable

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 July, 2014, 5:43pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 July, 2014, 5:55pm

A United States-based meat supplier whose Shanghai subsidiary is at the centre of a food safety scandal has promised sweeping changes to its management structure and said the conduct of its mainland operation had been completely unacceptable.

A TV station alleged last week that Shanghai Husi Food Company sold expired beef and chicken to restaurants including McDonald's and KFC.

Five executives at the company, including the quality control manager, have been arrested and an investigation is under way.

The president of parent company OSI Group, David McDonald, told a press conference yesterday that it had found evidence of poor standards at the Shanghai company, but he declined to give details.

"Why these things took place, by whom they took place and for what motives they took place, we simply can't understand," he said. "We'll take swift action to investigate as quickly and as comprehensively as possible."

OSI, based in Illinois in the United States, said its Chinese operations would no longer be a separate, decentralised unit and the business would be directly controlled by the firm's headquarters.

McDonald said the company would create a quality control centre in Shanghai and would spend 10 million yuan (HK$12.5 million) on a food safety education campaign.

Sheldon Lavin, the chairman and chief executive of OSI, said: "We accept that there must be consequences and we take responsibility for the actions of those individuals working for our company."

The fast food chain McDonald's stopped using all products from Husi Food last Friday on the mainland, the company said in a statement released Sunday.

"We have noted the public's concerns regarding our use of Husi's products," the statement said.

"McDonald's has stopped using all food materials from Husi China, including its joint ventures since July 25."

Dragon TV in Shanghai alleged in an investigative report that Husi Food mixed expired meat with fresh produce and then forged production dates before selling the goods to restaurants.

Husi's Shanghai plant has been closed down as the investigation continues.

A criminal investigation has started based on the findings of local food safety inspectors.

The government and OSI have yet to confirm publicly whether the company sold expired meat.

Food safety has become a major issue among consumers on the mainland after a series of scandals. Eight cooked food stores and a hotpot restaurant in Shanghai were ordered to shut down last year for selling mutton mixed with rat, fox, mink, duck and pork.

In 2008 it was discovered that at least six babies had died on the mainland after milk was contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine.

One Shanghai resident, Chen Qihui, who said he was a fan of McDonald's fast food, was shocked by the allegations made against Husi Food over the rotten meat.

"I feel hopeless. The issue has made me feel that nothing can be eaten here in China," Chen said.