Marks & Spencer pulls chicken, turkey products from Hong Kong shelves over UK food scare

Retailer finds some products sourced from British company embroiled in tainted chicken scandal; other firms urged to check inventory

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 July, 2014, 6:27am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 July, 2014, 9:13am

Food-safety worries in the city grew yesterday as Marks & Spencer removed chicken and turkey products from its shelves after they were found to be sourced from a UK company at the centre of a tainted-poultry scandal.

Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said another company, Sang Yick Foods, had also imported meat from the British supplier - 2 Sisters Food Group - but most of the supply had not been distributed to retailers. The Centre for Food Safety would continue to check whether any other importers had bought meat from the British company, he said.

Two plants of the 2 Sisters group have been accused of handling chickens in an unhygienic manner, by putting birds that had fallen on to the floor back on the production line.

It was also reported that feathers, guts and offal were untreated for hours while production continued, ignoring biosecurity rules. This could cause the spread of Campylobacter, a bacterium that causes food poisoning.

Chicken from these plants were supplied to leading supermarkets in Britain, such as Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury and Marks & Spencer.

Ko said Marks & Spencer in Hong Kong had imported poultry from 2 Sisters, but it was not from the two plants involved in the scandal.

A spokeswoman for the British retailer said the meat had been fully cooked before being imported into Hong Kong, so it posed "absolutely no risk" to consumers. She said it removed cooked chicken and turkey sandwiches from the stores as a precautionary measure.

The centre said Marks & Spencer had handed half a tonne of poultry stored in its refrigerators to be sealed.

Sang Yick Foods imported 1,666 boxes, or 25 tonnes, of frozen chicken feet from 2 Sisters on June 26. The centre said 103 boxes had been distributed to retailers and the company had handed the remainder to the centre.

Ko said Sang Yick had agreed to seal the batch of poultry at its warehouse so it would not be available on the market.

He called on other companies to advise the centre if they found their meat was from 2 Sisters.

Meanwhile, Ko said he accepted criticism that information released about the use by McDonald's of food from a supplier whose Shanghai factory was found to have reprocessed and repackaged rotten meat had been confusing.

When the centre first said McDonald's had not imported meat from Husi Food Company in the past year, it meant 2014. The centre later found the fast-food chain had in fact imported from Husi last year, he said.

McDonald's first denied having used meat from the company, but acknowledged it imported raw meat from it after the government suspended all Husi imports from the mainland.

The chain said it was substituting products from Thailand for those sourced from Husi.

McDonald's in Japan halted sales of all products using chicken meat produced in China from Friday after the scandal.

A spokeswoman for McDonald's said yesterday it had nothing to add, when asked why it took four days before it acknowledged it imported meat from the Shanghai supplier.