The Chinese outlets of McDonald’s and KFC have stopped using meat from a Shanghai company after a local television news program accused the supplier of using chicken and beef past their expiration date, triggering an investigation by local food safety officials.
The program, aired on Shanghai-based Dragon TV on Sunday evening, showed hidden camera footage of workers at a meat-processing facility operated by Shanghai Husi Food using out-of-date chicken and beef to make burger patties and chicken products for McDonald’s and KFC, in some cases scooping up meat that had fallen onto the assembly line floor and throwing it back into a processing machine.
In response, the Chinese units of McDonald’s and KFC both said in news releases posted from their official Sina Weibo social messaging accounts that they had halted use of all products from Shanghai Husi, which is owned by OSI Group, based in Aurora, Illinois.
The Shanghai Food and Drug Administration said in a Sina Weibo post late Sunday that it had suspended production at Shanghai Husi and had begun a joint investigation with the local police into accusations that the processing plant was using out-of-date meat in its products.
Food safety has been a hot-button issue among Chinese people in recent years, and nationwide scandals have broken out after revelations about the contamination of products like infant formula and cooking oil.
Multinational fast-food giants like KFC, which is owned by Yum Brands, and McDonald’s are generally perceived as having better quality-control standards. But they, too, have previously become mired in such scandals in China.
For example, Yum’s sales in China slumped after state media reports in late 2012 accused it of using chickens tainted with excessive use of antibiotics. The company, which also owns the Taco Bell and Pizza Hut brands, had 6,200 outlets in China at the end of last year that accounted for $6.9 billion of Yum’s $13 billion in total revenue in 2013.
In the latest scandal, reporters showed workers at Shanghai Husi using chicken meat that was two weeks past its expiration date, and beef that was six months beyond its expiration date. In one instance, the report said workers at the meat-processing facility hid the plant’s supplies of expired meat while inspectors from McDonald’s carried out an audit, only to resume using them after the inspectors had left.
Yang Liqun, a general manager at OSI China, told the state news agency Xinhua that the company had a strict quality-control system and would cooperate in the investigation.