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December 22, 2012

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Antiviral drug suspected in sample of Yum chicken

THE Shanghai Food and Drug Administration announced yesterday that one of the 32 samples tested from eight batches of Yum Brands' raw chicken materials was found with suspected contamination from an antiviral medicine, amantadine, which can affect the central nervous system.

The announcement came as the world's largest restaurant company continued to be grilled over use of chickens found with excessive antibiotics.

None of the samples checked by the SFDA, however, exceeded national standards on antibiotics or glucocorticoids, a class of steroid hormone, the agency said.

Yum Brands Inc, owner of KFC, has been feeling the heat after the Shanghai food safety office said on Thursday that the company found excessive antibiotics in chicken from a supplier in 2010 but didn't report it and kept on buying the chicken.

SFDA's recent testing on the samples covered 29 checks for antibiotics, antivirals and glucocorticoids.

The antiviral amantadine, used sometimes to treat flu and Parkinson's disease, is no longer recommended by US authorities for flu treatment because viruses have become resistant to it. It has been associated with several central nervous system side effects including nervousness, anxiety, agitation, insomnia, difficulty in concentrating, and exacerbations of pre-existing seizure disorders and psychiatric symptoms.

Since there is no national standard for amantadine residue in food, the food safety authority has organized experts to carry out a risk evaluation.

Eateries to be checked

Officials said they have sent teams to the company's logistics center to seal off the batch from which the sample was drawn and ordered the company to recall products in the same batch.

SFDA yesterday also ordered its branches in all districts and Chongming County to launch comprehensive checks on relevant outlets of Yum Brands.

Officials will seal off products in the same suspicious batch, expand collection of samples for further testing and do overall hygiene checks on all food processing in the outlets.

The authority said it will impose serious punishment if food safety violations are identified.

While media reports say business at the city's KFC outlets is down, a poll launched by Shanghai Daily's website on Thursday found mixed opinions about the chain.

The poll found nearly half of participants said they will continue to eat at KFC since they have eaten there many times. Over 30 percent said they will stop eating at KFC but will choose other fast food, while only 20 percent said they will stop eating all fast food.

Lily Zhu, a company clerk, said there are so many food scandals in China that people feel numb.

"Compared with streetside stalls, brands like KFC still undergo strict supervision by the company and government," she said.

According to the Shanghai Food Safety Office, Yum Brands found excessive antibiotics in chicken from supplier Shandong Liuhe Group in 2010. But it failed to report it but kept on buying the tainted chicken.

The company and the Shanghai Institute for Food and Drug Control, a government institute paid by the company to test its chicken products, will receive strict punishment if violations of food safety are found.


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