Before the horse meat scandal, there was the case of the doped-up Chinese chickens. In December, food safety officials in Shanghai found high levels of antiviral drugs in KFC chicken samples from 2010 and 2011. The poultry was sourced from suppliers in eastern China who had given the birds drugs and hormones to make them grow faster.
That’s still causing major discomfort at KFC and its corporate parent Yum! Brands. Yum gets more than half its revenue and profit from China, where it has more than 5,000 restaurants and is the country’s biggest foreign food chain. Today it reported that same-store sales in China dropped 20% in the first quarter, including a nausea-inducing 24% decline at KFC.
Western companies are getting increasingly entangled in China food scandals as public outrage grows. Sina Weibo users were incensed when Ikea reassured Chinese customers last month that their meatballs did not contain horse meat because they were made in China; many had assumed that the meatballs came from abroad and were thus less likely to be tainted.