News / Asia

5 Arrested in China Fast-food Meat Scandal

Employees work at a production line prior to a seizure conducted by officers from the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration, at the Husi Food factory in Shanghai, July 20, 2014.
Employees work at a production line prior to a seizure conducted by officers from the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration, at the Husi Food factory in Shanghai, July 20, 2014.
Reuters

Shanghai police said on Wednesday they detained five people in an investigation into a Chinese-based supplier of foreign fast-food brands including KFC and McDonald's Corp over allegations the firm supplied out-of-date meat.

The five detained include the head of the company - Shanghai Husi Food Co Ltd, a unit of U.S.-based OSI Group LLC - and the firm's quality manager, the police said in an online statement. It gave no other details.

McDonald's, Yum Brands Inc, the parent company of KFC and Pizza Hut, and coffee chain Starbucks Corp are among global brands to have pulled products from their outlets after it emerged that Shanghai Husi supplied expired meat to clients in China, as well as Japan, in the latest in a series of food safety scandals in the country.

Earlier, the official Xinhua news agency cited the Shanghai food and drug watchdog as saying that food safety violations at Shanghai Husi were company-led rather than the acts of individuals.

“We discovered that some of the company's illegal behavior was not the behavior of individuals, but rather an organized arrangement by the company,” Xinhua reported Gu Zhenhua, deputy head of the Shanghai Municipal Food and Drug Administration, as saying.

Illinois-based OSI has said it was “appalled” and was investigating the matter after a Chinese TV report on Sunday showed staff at its Shanghai Husi facility using expired meat and picking up meat from the floor to add to the mix.

An official at OSI in China reached by telephone on Wednesday declined to comment further.

Different standards

Huang Denggang, 20, worked as a night cleaner at the Husi plant, a modern warehouse compound in a Shanghai suburb, for more than a year, but doesn't plan to return when it re-opens because of lower-than-expected pay and a medical claim.

He told Reuters on Wednesday that he saw workers pick up raw meat from the floor and put it back into processing containers.

“I've seen them pick meat pieces off the floor, though I can't say I know anything about expired meat because I'm not involved in that part of the factory,” he said at a local job agency where he works during the day. He showed Reuters his Husi payslip as verification of his employment there.

“The leader didn't say anything when you throw it back. When the raw meat falls out of a container from inside, you just pick it up and put it back,” he recalled, adding he also saw some workers not wear gloves while handling raw meat.

“If you wear gloves, maybe it slows you down if you want to pick up the chicken pieces because they're slippery. But again I don't work in that part of the factory. But I've seen them doing that [not wearing gloves],” he said.

Another Husi worker, who gave only the surname Zhang, said by telephone that he worked on the production line breaking up chicken into pieces. He said he quit because of the low pay.

“When it [raw meat] drops, they usually don't see it, and even if they do it was fine to pick it up and put it back,” he said. “There was an attitude of 'it doesn't really matter'.”

The former workers' comments contrasted with what one worker at another of OSI's food processing plants in Langfang in the northern Chinese province of Hebei told Reuters. He said that regulations there were very strict, all workers need to wear special clothes, and spot checks were often held unannounced.

“The inspections are done by everyone: our own company, the government and also clients like McDonald's. Our rules are very strict and food safety standards are very high,” said the worker, surnamed Wei, as he took a break at a nearby supermarket. He added the Hebei factory, which processes meat, vegetables and flour products according to its website, was still open for business despite ongoing government inspections.

‘Doctored records’

Xinhua also cited the Shanghai food watchdog's deputy head Gu as saying that Shanghai Husi's controls systems and records for suspected products violated Chinese regulations.

In the Dragon TV documentary on Sunday, staff at the Shanghai Husi facility said they kept two record books related to food products, one of which was doctored to be shown to anyone who came to audit the facility. 

According to the report, which claimed to show an inspection of the facility by McDonald's, Shanghai Husi staff were aware a day in advance of the visit and made sure that only compliant products were being processed on the day.

Separately, the Shanghai food watchdog said it had sealed more than 1,000 tons of suspected meat products from OSI in China, and a further 100 tons of products from a range of its customers.

In Japan, a spokesman for Seven & I Holdings Co Ltd  said a licensee in Shanghai had been selling two hamburger products using meat supplied by Shanghai Husi. Both products were removed from outlets on Monday.

A spokeswoman for FamilyMart Co Ltd said the Japanese convenience store chain had begun a supply deal with Shanghai Husi this month, selling a “Garlic Nugget” product at its around 10,000 stores in Japan. 

Another product, “Popcorn Chicken” began test-sales mainly in Tokyo this week. Sales of both products were halted on Tuesday. The company said there were no reports of any customers falling sick from the products.

“I am deeply sorry for causing this trouble and worry to all those involved,” FamilyMart President Isamu Nakayama told reporters in Tokyo. “We do not think there is any problem with our operating structure but the very fact that this happened means that I think that additional checks should be put into place to help reassure consumers.”

On Tuesday, McDonald's Holdings Co (Japan) Ltd said the company had sourced about a fifth of its Chicken McNuggets from Shanghai Husi and had halted sales of the product on Monday.  

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Frankie Fook-lun Leung from: Los Angeles
July 23, 2014 9:54 PM
In chinese law, the distinction between criminal sanctions, regulatory punishment and civil penalties is sometimes non-existent.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs