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China arrests five in expired meat scandal

Chinese police have arrested five employees of US food supplier OSI Group. The company is accused of selling expired beef and chicken to fast food giants including McDonald's and KFC.

The arrests were made on Wednesday after China's food and safety agency said on its website that its investigators had found unspecified illegal activity by Husi Food Co., which is owned by OSI Group.

"We found that some of the illegal conduct was not that of certain individuals but was an arrangement organized by the company," the deputy director of the agency's Shanghai bureau, Gu Zhengua, told the official Xinhua News Agency.

The Shanghai Public Security Bureau said those taken into custody included the company officials responsible, with the quality manager among them, but did not name the five.

Expired meat scandal

The OSI plant was

shut down on Sunday

following a report from Shanghai broadcaster Dragon TV. The channel's investigative report showed that Husi was repacking old meat and putting new expiration dates on them, as well as mixing out-of-date meat with fresh products.

The factory's customers included McDonald's, KFC, restaurant operator Yum's Pizza Hut brand, coffee giant Starbucks, Burger King, Papa John's Pizza and 7-Eleven convenience stores, according to separate statements from the companies.

McDonald's Japan has also confirmed that 20 percent of its chicken nuggets hailed from the Shanghai plant.

The Husi factor was established in 1996 and had more than 500 workers with five production lines for items including pork, beef and chicken, according to the company's website.

China's State Food and Drug Administration said in its statement that investigators had seized 160 tons of raw material and 1,100 tons of finished products from Husi. The agency earlier said its investigation would also include Husi facilities in Shanghai and five other provinces.

Parent company 'appalled'

The OSI parent company in the US, based in Aurora, Illinois, said on Monday it was "appalled" by the allegations and announced it had formed an investigative team.

McDonald's CEO Don Thompson said in a conference call Tuesday that his company was cooperating with Chinese authorities and OSI.

"In this case, we do feel we were a bit deceived with respect to one of these plants," he said.

Product safety is a particularly sensitive issue in China. Over the past decade, infants, hospital patients and others have died or been sickened due to adulterated milk powder, drugs and other goods.

dr/msh (AP, AFP)

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