China food safety

Shanghai food watchdog targets foreign firms in meat clean-up

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 August, 2014, 5:05am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 August, 2014, 6:42am

Shanghai is singling out foreign fast-food chains in its stepped-up efforts to strengthen oversight of meat suppliers, a fresh sign that a food safety scandal involving a US company could worsen problems for overseas businesses on the mainland.

The Shanghai Food and Drug Administration said last weekend that five foreign fast-food chains caught up in a rotten meat scare had to publish the names and information of their meat suppliers online for public scrutiny. Those five companies were McDonald's, Yum Brands, Burger King, Dicos and Carl's Jr, all of which have complied with the orders. Papa John's Pizza was also told to release the details and was in the process of doing so, an officer from the administration said.

"The policy was aimed at only foreign companies - domestic food suppliers have yet to be required to do so," the officer said.

The orders are part of the fallout from a Dragon TV report late last month accusing Shanghai Husi Food, a subsidiary of Illinois-based OSI Group, of mixing expired meat with fresh supplies and then forging production dates before selling the goods to restaurants.

Shanghai police arrested five Husi executives and set up a special task force to investigate the case.

A policeman involved in the probe told the South China Morning Post that the case was viewed as "a sensitive issue" because it involved an American firm. Shanghai Communist Party boss Han Zheng was also paying close attention to the investigation.

Chen Xiao, chief executive of Shanghai Yacheng Culture, a public relations agency representing several foreign food companies, said it was clear that overseas suppliers of food were being targeted.

"It's an open secret that tainted food is everywhere in China and it's also understood that foreign firms like Husi are relatively better at controlling food quality than all of their Chinese counterparts. But the local authorities obviously want to take this opportunity to punish foreign companies," Chen said.

Shanghai resident Chen Shunrong said: "I don't mean to defend foreign brands such as KFC and McDonald's … I would still vote for them because the local restaurants seem to be worse. But why do the authorities intend to investigate and punish only the foreign suppliers?"