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FOOD SAFETY

'Rotten meat' firm licensed to supply to Hong Kong; lawmakers call for tests on mainland imports

Shanghai Husi Food Company, shut down after allegations it reused rotten meat and falsified expiry labels, said it was licensed to supply to Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 July, 2014, 2:42pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 July, 2014, 7:50pm

Hong Kong’s Centre for Food Safety today said its records suggest that no meat from a Shanghai factory at the centre of a food safety scandal had been imported into the territory this year, as evidence emerged that tainted food was sold in Japan.

After enquiries made by the Post, the Centre said it had no records of meat imports this year from the Shanghai Husi Food Company, which was closed down on Sunday. But the centre refused to comment when asked if meat from the company could have reached Hong Kong prior to this year. 

Mainland food safety authorities are investigating reports that the company reprocessed rotten meat and falsified expiry dates on some products sold to international chains such as McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut.

The factory was licensed to export to both Hong Kong and Japan, according to its website.

READ: China food scandal spreads to Japan as Burger King, Starbucks admit using tainted supplier

McDonald's Japan today admitted that the company had sourced about a fifth of its Chicken McNuggets from Shanghai Husi and that it had halted sales of the product on Monday. Alternative supplies of chicken have been found in Thailand and China, a spokesman added.

The Hong Kong centre said it would check with mainland counterparts for any evidence that Husi meat made it into the city.

Watch: China supplier of KFC, McDonald's accused of using rotten meat in fast-food products

Hong Kong lawmakers on Tuesday urged the government to step up safety tests on meat products imported from the mainland, with one legislator calling for “every batch” of meat to be tested from now on.

Currently the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department only conducts sporadic tests on random samples of imported meat as long as the products are with licensed importers and have passed local safety tests, with official certificates issued by local authorities recognised by the Hong Kong government.

Steven Ho Chun-yin, deputy chairman of the Legislative Council’s food safety and environmental hygiene panel, said the government should enhance its safety tests on imported meat from the mainland to make Hongkongers feel secure.

Ho, who represents the agriculture and fisheries sector, said although it required additional resources, the government should ease people’s concerns and ensure them that they are consuming safe meat by conducting tests on a wider range of samples from every batch of meat imported from the mainland.

He cited the government’s heightened safety tests on food products from Japan in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima earthquake and the following radiation leaks as an example.

“Although expired meat is not as bad as radiation leaks, it’s still serious,” he said.

The panel’s chairman, Democratic Party’s Helena Wong Pik-wan, agreed and said the government should also conduct research on the market to see if any of the expired meat from the closed factory had been used by any local restaurants.

The factory processed 25,000 tonnes of food annually, according to its own figures. Earlier this year, it received a food safety award from Jiading district.

On Monday, McDonald’s and Yum Brands, the owner of KFC and Pizza Hut franchises, announced they had stopped sourcing meat from Husi. They issued an apology and said their restaurants in China could now face a shortage of certain products.

Chinese fast-food restaurant chain Dicos said it had withdrawn breakfast sandwiches from its menu because its ham was previously sourced from Husi.

Swedish retailer Ikea also said it had bought chicken meat for its mainland branches from the factory between September 2012 and August last year.

The Hong Kong branches of McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Subway and Starbucks have all denied sourcing meat from Husi.

Burger King and Saizeriya, reported to be partners of Husi’s parent company, the Illinois-based OSI Group, could not be reached for comment.

OSI has apologised to customers, saying it has set up an investigation team and was fully cooperating with inspections conducted by the authorities.

The privately owned group, which has close to 60 manufacturing facilities worldwide and had revenue of over US$5 billion in 2012, has been supplying McDonald’s in China since 1992 and Yum since 2008, according to its website.

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