China made McDonald’s and Yum Brands give up one of their most guarded secrets

Now we know where those savory and refreshing ingredients come from.
Now we know where those savory and refreshing ingredients come from.
Image: Reuters/Issei Kato
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McDonald’s, Yum Brands, and three other fast food chains under fire for allegedly using expired meat have published previously confidential lists of their suppliers in China. Shanghai food and drug regulators asked the chains, as well as Burger King, Carl’s Jr., and the Taiwanese chain Dico’s, to disclose their suppliers on Aug. 9 in an effort to improve transparency.

Benjamin Cavender, an analyst with China Market Research Group, told Reuters that fast food chains don’t usually release their list of suppliers, in order to keep rivals from knowing where they source their materials. (And some food retailers change suppliers so often throughout the year that they may not always know who their suppliers are at any given moment.)

Yum Brands, the owner of Pizza Hut and KFC, the largest fast food chain in China by number of restaurants, released a list of 26 suppliers (pdf, in Chinese). These included subsidiaries of WH Group, the world’s largest pork producer, which listed in Hong Kong last week. Suppliers to McDonald’s include the dairy producers Beijing Sanyuan Foods Co. and Kowloon Dairy.

Yum’s list also includes a subsidiary of the Singaporean agrifirm Wilmar International, Yihai Kerry, which is involved in a legal spat with a Chinese news site. The site,, reported that a tanker of gutter oil (used oil from restaurants and homes) was transported from Beijing to a Yihai Kerry group facility that produces edible oils. Yihai, which supplies oil to Yum, says the oil went to one of the firm’s units for processing waste oil.