In bad taste: Foreign brands face new food scandals

Source:Globaltimes.cn Published: 2014/7/29 11:32:44

           Editor's Note

Food safety concerns in China spiked once again after a recent expose by Shanghai Television Station revealed the Chinese arm of US-based food supplier was selling substandard meat mixed with processed products to fast-food chains, such as McDonald's and KFC.

Globaltimes.cn looks back on recent major food safety scandals involving foreign companies.

          Foreign Brands' Food Scandals

           Husi Scandal

 Company background

Shanghai Husi Food Co., Ltd,
A subsidiary of US meat processor OSI Group,
Founded in 1996
Registered capital: 50.47 million yuan
Two production lines: one for chicken and the other for beef and pork.

 What happened?

Shanghai Television Station report:
Hidden camera footage showed workers processing meat that had been dropped on the floor, despite factory rules that forbid the practice, according to the STV report.

Buckets labeled "substandard" were filled with meat that was later mixed with fresh cuts to process meat products that were shipped off to the plants' customers.  

 Restaurants affected

McDonald's, KFC

 Husi also supplies

Papa John's, Pizza Hut, Subway, Burger King, 7-11, Dico's

 Prior knowledge?

A Husi employee surnamed Zhang, who had been with the company for 10 years, said he told managers about what was going on at the factory floor, but was told to "mind his business."

 How was it exposed?

Shanghai Television Station (STV) sent an undercover reporter into the plant. The reporter, who posed as a factory worker, discovered an alarming number of food safety violations.

STV got ahold of an e-mail that disclosed that the company extended the expiration date on more than 1 ton of steak by an entire year.


Shanghai Municipal Food and Drug Administration have sealed the plant and ordered production to be suspended

McDonald's has sealed more than 4,500 boxes of beef, pork and chicken supplied by Husi

Pizza Hut has halted use of more than 500 boxes of beef products

Husi's Shanghai plant promised "hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP)", a systematic preventive approach to food safety, and "routine sample microbe test".

OSI Group said it is assisting regulators with the investigation and apologized to consumers


Q: Will you eat at McDonald's or KFC after a media exposé revealed that one of their suppliers was selling them expired and substandard meat?

32.88% (122) -The company should be severely punished.

6.2% (23) -The fast-food giants also bear so  me responsibility because they did not conduct strict inspections.

42.32% (157) - This kind of misconduct happens time and time again because of the government's negligent supervision.

18.6% (69) - Chinese people's bodies have grown accustomed to unhealthy food.

Source: xinmin.cn


Time for a new attitude from foreign brands

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.

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.

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.

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.

Processor's misdeeds show need for harsher penalties

The STV story not only reveals a company's corrupt business practices, but illustrates the incredible challenge that restaurants, even giant chains like McDonald's and KFC, have in ensuring the quality of their food supplies.

Considering the regulators' own failure at rooting out Husi's sanitation and safety violations, perhaps it just isn't possible to ensure that every food supplier to the city is meeting its health and safety requirements. If that is the case, the punishment must be severe to serve as a deterrent. 

Web editor: pangqi@globaltimes.com.cn

Posted in: Daily Specials