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December 19, 2012

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City's FDA probes 'instant chicken'

Shanghai's food and drug authorities are inspecting batches of chicken reported to be fed chemicals laced with illegal medicine and 18 kinds of antibiotics to keep them alive and boost their growth.

Batches of what China Central Television called "instant chicken" were ready to be served at fast food restaurants in the city after they were transported to the Shanghai logistics center of Yum Brands Inc, the world's largest restaurant company and owner of KFC and Pizza Hut.

A CCTV news broadcast yesterday said some poultry suppliers in Shandong Province had been found to be accelerating the growth of chickens by using harmful chemical feed.

Farm workers were filmed pouring bottles of medicine, additives and up to 18 kinds of antibiotics into chicken feed.

A worker told the reporter that chickens raised at the farm had to be fed antibiotics twice a day from birth to keep them alive. They had to frequently change the type of antibiotic as the chickens would develop a resistance to the drugs.

"For example, if you feed chicken amoxicillin today, then you have to replace it with chloramphenicol several days later as the chicken may soon have drug resistance," said a farm manger surnamed Zhu.

Although Chinese law bans the use of medicines seven days before chickens are sent to the slaughterhouse, suppliers didn't stop the use of drugs until three days before they sold them, the program said. At one farm, workers were found still feeding antibiotics a day before the chickens were sold. "The lives of the chickens are sustained by the drugs. If you stop using them, they die," said Zhu.

Another farm manger surnamed Qiu said, "We have to reduce the death rate of the chickens to minimum."

The program also said that some farms were feeding chicken with banned medicine to speed up their growth. One kind of medicine, banned for use as a veterinary drug, was meant to stimulate chickens' appetites so they would keep on eating to gain more weight.

On the farms, CCTV said, tens of thousands of chickens lived in crowded conditions with lamps on around the clock to keep them eating.

Batches of the chickens were sent to two companies, Shandong Liuhe Group and Yintai Co, to be slaughtered.

But the CCTV report said that neither company carried out quarantine inspection procedures.

The two companies claimed to be suppliers to KFC and McDonald's restaurants.

Denied reports

Following a truck carrying the chickens, the reporter found that they were transported to Yum Brands' logistics center and later sent to its restaurants, including a KFC in the Pudong New Area.

KFC China said yesterday that it had stopped purchasing chicken from the Liuhe Group in August. It denied reports it had sealed 30,000 tons of the chicken meat.

McDonald's said yesterday that all its chicken had been checked and qualified by a third-party laboratory, but it didn't say whether Liuhe was its supplier.

Yum Brands told Shanghai Television that an investigation into the case was under way.

The Shanghai Food and Drug Administration said they had begun an inspection of chicken products at the logistics center and would publish the results soon.

The FDA said they had tested 450 poultry samples this year and found 19 with excess levels of antibiotics.


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