McDonald’s restaurants in Beijing, Shanghai, and at least four other Chinese cities have temporarily gone vegetarian today, as the fast food chain scrambles to address allegations that one of its biggest suppliers has been using expired meat for years. A sign at one McDonald’s in Beijing says, “Thanks for your support. We are so sorry that we only have these choices for you.”
Over the weekend, the Illinois-based OSI Group, parent company of the Chinese supplier, Shanghai Husi, at the center of China’s latest food scandal, said that it was withdrawing all meat supplied by Shanghai Husi, one of the country’s largest meat suppliers. Last week, McDonald’s took chicken nuggets and other items off of menus at its restaurants in Hong Kong and McDonald’s in Japan pledged to stop sourcing any chicken from China (paywall).
Local Chinese media had released footage of workers at a Shanghai Husi plant extending the use-by date of already expired meat sold to McDonalds and other fast food chains, including KFC, Pizza Hut, Burger King, a Taiwanese fried chicken chain called Dico’s, Starbucks, 7-Eleven, and Ikea.
China is McDonald’s third-largest market in terms of number of restaurants. Right now McDonald’s is the second-largest fast food operator in China after KFC, but other chains like Dico’s are quickly catching up. A severely stripped down menu won’t help the chain whose reputation is already taking a beating.
Recently publicized court documents show that a former quality manager attempting to sue Shanghai Husi said the company forced him to forge production dates on meat. In Russia, a consumer protection agency in Moscow filed a lawsuit (paywall) against the food chain, claiming that its chicken burgers, Caesar wraps, and ice cream parfaits don’t meet the country’s health requirements. McDonald’s in Hong Kong had originally said that it had not imported food products from Shanghai Husi and apologized to customers for the “confusion,” after it admitted that it had purchased meat Shanghai Husi in the past and that the recalled items came another Husi supplier.
One blogger wrote (registration required) on Weibo, “Apologizing isn’t enough. [McDonald’s] should get out of China.”