Time for a new attitude from foreign brands

Source:Global Times Published: 2014-7-21 23:48:03

Fast-food chains McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut are facing a new food safety scandal. A Shanghai television station reported that a supplier, Shanghai Husi Food Co, Ltd, sold them expired beef and chicken. These chains have announced that they have suspended use of the company's products, but some branches haven't yet complied with this decision.

This is yet another example of the backslide of well-known foreign brands in China. McDonald's and Yum! Brands, owner of KFC and Pizza Hut, should take responsibility for supervising their supplier. China's regulatory authorities must also shoulder some responsibility.

This scandal was not revealed by McDonald's or Yum!. Even Chinese regulatory authorities were bystanders. It was undercover reporters who unveiled the misdeeds. This makes the scandal even more grave, since media supervision by its nature can be only scattershot. The core safeguard of food safety is systematic supervision and companies' internal management. Yet in the latest scandal, both failed to work.

We probably can say that food offered by international brands is safer than that of domestic food companies. But it is clear that their ability to do so has abated, a fact for which the companies themselves and the business environment in China are to blame.

Famous international brands have not adopted a dedicated attitude toward Chinese consumers. Perhaps they believed the Chinese market is a rough place, and that service that is "just good enough" can work in China.

Some automakers react more slowly in China than in Western markets when recalling problem cars. Warranty periods for some cellphone brands in China are shorter than in the US. These can be attributed to the undisciplined attitude of foreign enterprises.

Chinese society is not blameless either. China's reliance on interpersonal relationships makes the country a hotbed for corruption. Quality oversight authorities are weak and the media's role is not consistent. The public blindly worships foreign brands. All these have influenced foreign enterprises' behavior in China.

CCTV once exposed discrimination against iPhone users in China in after-sales service. Later it demonstrated that prices for Starbucks in China were higher than in the US.

Both times it met with backlash from Chinese netizens. Chinese public opinion has shown an emotional tendency to leap to the defense of foreign brands. No wonder scandals involving these brands have emerged one after another.

We don't have to demonize all foreign fast food brands rashly. This is not fair to them. We should treat them impartially, offering them no exemption from regulations. We believe in their ability to handle problems and their experience in ensuring quality in international markets. We hope they can reevaluate the Chinese business environment and offer wholehearted service to Chinese consumers.

Posted in: Editorial

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