A new food safety scare has hit McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut in China after a supplier was caught selling the chains expired meat. The scandal may tarnish consumers' already strained confidence in China's food industry.
Major fast food chains McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut said Monday they had stopped using meat from their supplier in Shanghai, Husi Food Co., after a Chinese TV station reported the meat packer had sold customers stale beef and chicken.
McDonald's said it had "zero tolerance for illegal behavior," a day after television footage showed workers picking up meat and hamburger patties off a factory floor before putting them into processing machinery.
One worker was shown handling expired beef and calling it "stinky meat."
The parent company of KFC and Pizza Hut, Yum, also said that its establishments had ceased use of the tainted meat.
Government cracks down - again
The Shanghai office of the State Food and Drug Administration said it was working with police to investigate Husi Food.
"At present, the company has been sealed and suspect products seized," the agency wrote in a statement on its website, adding that distributors had been ordered to hold any products bought from the company for investigation.
China's official Xinhua News Agency cited company manager Yang Liqun as saying that Husi Food has a strict quality control system and would cooperate in the investigation.
According to a reports in Chinese media, Burger King, Papa John's Pizza, Subway the coffee chain Starbucks and furniture giant IKEA are also customers of Husi Food.
IKEA has said it stopped using meat from the company last year and Subway also denied it uses meat from Husi Food.
The latest of many food scandals in China
In 2013, China's authorities launched a series of raids and arrested hundreds of people in connection with food supply scandals that involved firms selling meat advertised as mutton, donkey or beef that was really rat or fox meat.
Consumers in China often assume that imported food products, or food sold by foreign chains, are likely to be subject to stricter quality control and safer than domestic Chinese food.
KFC is China's biggest fast-food chain with some 4,000 restaurants and plans to open 700 more this year.
The company weathered a separate food scandal at the end of last year, when Chinese state TV reported some poultry suppliers had violated rules on drug use in chickens.
KFC's sales plunged 37 percent in a month and the chain began tightening controls over product quality, including eliminating more than 1,000 small poultry producers from its supply network.
nz/cjc (AP, AFP)