Using expired meat in China was allegedly company policy for a US-owned supplier

Workers at Shanghai Husi Food co. before production at the plant was suspended this week.
Workers at Shanghai Husi Food co. before production at the plant was suspended this week.
Image: Reuters/Stringer
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The latest food scandal over the use of rotten meat by a US-owned supplier is spreading across China and creeping up the company’s management chain.

A quality control manager at Shanghai Husi Food Co, owned by the Aurora, Illinois-based OSI Group, told investigators that management “at least above the factory director’s level” had approved adding expired meat into the production of chicken nuggets, beef patties and other frozen fast food products, according to Dragon Television. “If we’re making beef patties for example, we’re allowed to add substandard raw materials if we have them,” the manager said. He said he did not remember when this practice had started, but that the policy has been in place for years.

The Shanghai Public Security Bureau launched a probe into the scandal and five people have been placed under criminal detention, according to the state-run People’s Daily.

Over the weekend, Dragon Television released a report showing Husi employees processing and packaging chicken and beef already several weeks past their expiry, in some cases scooping meat from the floor and tossing it into the meat processing machines. The report also showed what workers said was an e-mail from management, asking them to extend the expiry date for 11 tons of beef.

The allegations have affected Husi’s clients in China—including KFC, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Papa Johns International, a Taiwanese fried chicken chain called Dicos—as well as Starbucks, IKEA, 7-Eleven, and McDonald’s in Japan. Officials suspended production at Husi and seized 100 tons (90 tonnes) of questionable meat products.

The privately owned OSI Group, McDonald’s largest protein supplier, has recently made it its mission to become one of China’s largest poultry producers and food processors. In recruitment ads, Husi claims to be McDonald’s “best supplier.”

Without confirming the allegations of the Dragon Television report, OSI Group said in a statement yesterday that it believes the incident to be ”an isolated event” and announced it is conducting its own investigation. The company hasn’t responded to emailed requests for additional comment. Phone numbers for OSI’s offices in Shanghai and Hong Kong were out of service and woman who answered the phone for their Hebei office declined to answer questions.

Cathy Sizhao Yi contributed additional reporting.