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July 21, 2014

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Meat factory ordered to close

THE Shanghai Food and Drug Administration last night ordered a food processing plant in Jiading District — a supplier to fast food giants like McDonald’s and KFC — to suspend production following allegations it used out-of-date and substandard meat.

Officials from the agency raided the Husi Food factory about 9pm, shortly after the broadcast of a Shanghai Television evening newscast.

In the program, an undercover reporter posing as a worker at Husi — the Chinese arm of United States-based OSI Group — used a hidden camera to film his colleagues mixing “expired” meat with fresh cuts and lying to inspectors from fast food chain McDonald’s.

Husi supplies various meat products to several global brands, including McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, Starbucks and Subway.

In the program, a worker openly admitted to mixing chicken skin with chicken breast meat, while in another scene, employees were filmed putting out-of-date chicken breasts back into refrigerators for later use. According to one worker, the company openly promotes the practice of combining substandard chicken meat with fresh cuts prior to frying.

“There is even a manual outlining the mix ratios,” he said.

In another scene, workers are filmed combining unidentified meats in a large blender, before forming them into patties and storing them in a freezer.

In one of the most damning scenes, said to have been shot on May 21, a group of people — who identified themselves as McDonald’s quality inspectors — is seen visiting the factory. As they toured the factory floor, bags of substandard products were shifted out of view.

“If our suppliers (McDonald’s) found out that we use the expired meat, we’d lose our contract with them,” an unwitting worker told the undercover reporter.

Another employee appeared proud of the company’s ability to hoodwink its clients.

“We should bend the rules whenever possible,” he said. “The rules are flexible, so we can find loopholes.”

In an internal email seen by STV dated March 2014, production workers are told by quality control staff to extend the expiration date on selected meat products from April to June.

According to a former Husi employer, who used the name Mr Zhang to disguise his real identity but claimed to have worked for the company for 10 years, said food safety inspectors are unlikely to find any evidence of any wrongdoing.

“The factory’s quality control team keeps two sets of records,” he said. “They have one for the inspectors and another for what’s really going on.”

Zhang said  while he was employed by the company, he raised his concerns with the management. “But I was told to mind my own business.”

Immediately following the program’s broadcast, the food safety agency ordered KFC and McDonald’s to halt the sale of products supplied by Husi.

McDonald’s confirmed it has ordered all of its restaurants in China to stop using products supplied by the company and to seal any outstanding stocks.

The fast food chain said it has also set up a team to undertake a thorough investigation of the claims made in the program.

It said it has always observed China’s food quality regulations and orders all of its suppliers to do the same.

Yum China, parent of KFC, said it takes the reports very seriously and will “look into the matter thoroughly.”

OSI Group, which has its headquarters in Illinois, United States, has a presence in 17 countries around the world.

The company opened its first factory in China in 1991 and now has nine production sites and poultry farms across the country. Shanghai Husi Food opened in 1996.


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