McDonald’s Hong Kong to face probe over meat imports from rotten food plant
Full disclosure needed, consumer council chief says, amid investigation into whether chain knowingly sold potentially tainted food in HK
Michael de Waal-Montgomery and Danny Lee
An official probe is under way into the McDonald's "rotten meat" scandal, focusing on whether the fast-food giant knowingly sold potentially tainted food to the Hong Kong public over a four-day period this week.
The Centre for Food Safety, which is conducting the probe, said yesterday that samples collected during 48 visits to various fast-food chains, including McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Yoshinoya and Burger King had all passed as safe.
However, it said it had sealed off 59 tonnes of Husi Food Company products imported from the mainland - all of which were from McDonald's.
McDonald's has acknowledged it imported raw meat from a scandal-hit Shanghai Husi Food Company plant that has been found to have reprocessed and repackaged rotten meat. Food safety officials are concerned that the acknowledgment came only after the government forced its hand by suspending all Husi imports originating from the mainland.
Officials say that over the past year, Hong Kong McDonald's branches imported 380 tonnes of chicken and pork from the Shanghai plant. However, it's not clear when the meat was sold.
After denying since Monday there were any problems with food safety, McDonald's admitted publicly on Thursday night that it had imported chicken and pork from the Shanghai plant. The chain then suspended sales of popular menu offerings including chicken nuggets and McSpicy burgers.
Officials are now investigating whether the fast-food giant breached the public health and municipal services ordinance.
Consumer Council chief executive Gilly Wong Fung-han said McDonald's should "provide full disclosure of its sourcing arrangements and records for public information".
Members of the Democratic Party protested outside the customs headquarters yesterday calling for a full investigation.
"The information McDonald's announced to the public on Monday and then changed [on Thursday] is contradictory," said the party's deputy consumer rights spokesman, Andrew Chiu Ka-yin. Chiu believed McDonald's had violated the Trade Descriptions Ordinance and had deliberately concealed events to deceive consumers.
He added: "Consumers have based their decisions on whether to eat at McDonald's this week based on the Monday statement. The Monday announcement was reflected to the public by all the media, but it was incorrect information."
Several calls to McDonald's Hong Kong asking why the chain changed its story went unanswered. A company spokesman said it had stopped importing ingredients from the affected Husi supplier. He would not reveal the new supplier.
"All food supplied in McDonald's at the present time is safe because it has passed safety checks and regulations."
McDonald's said its restaurants in Japan had stopped selling products made with chicken from China.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse