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Sales of Expired Meat in China May Have Started Some Time Ago

Expired meat was probably being sold to McDonald’s and KFC restaurants in China for at least a year before the practice was caught for a report aired by Dragon TV.

A former quality-control officer for Shanghai Husi Food Co. Ltd., an affiliate of the Aurora, IL-based OSI Group, sued the company last year for allegedly requiring him to falsify production dates on meat packages. Wang Donglai, who worked at Shanghai Husi from 2007 through 2013, wanted to have his contract terminated because he said he was being required to engage in “unethical” practices and was risking his health through exposure to chlorine used to clean the meat. A demand for $6,100 was also included in his claims.

This “whistleblower” not only went unheeded by Shanghai Husi, but the district court dismissed all of his allegations after the company presented records showing Donglai’s health was OK.

Only when Dragon TV reported that Shanghai Husi was selling expired chicken and beef did the government shut down the company’s operations.

As in other food safety scandals involving local suppliers to Western companies, Chinese consumers have responded by blaming McDonald’s and the Yum! Brands-owed KFC’s for not paying close enough attention to where they were purchasing products. Many also suspect that the expired meat was purposely sold to restaurants.

Chinese food safety authorities, however, have responded with the arrests of five Shanghai Husi employees, including the quality manager.

The $6-billion OSI Group Inc. announced over this past weekend that all products made by Shanghai Husi are now being recalled. Although no illnesses have yet been attributed to eating the expired meat, OSI took the action to avoid seeing its fast-food business completely melt down in China, Hong Kong and Japan.

“To help rebuild the trust of customers and consumers, as well as to cooperate with the official investigatory process, we are compelled to withdraw all products manufactured by Shanghai Husi from the marketplace,” said OSI in a statement released Saturday on the company’s website in China. OSI also promised to undertake a “thorough internal investigation.”

Yum! Brands, owner of KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants, said it would no longer buy meat from OSI in China, Australia, or the U.S. McDonald’s, which has a relationship with OSI going back to founder Ray Kroc, said it would cut its orders from China for Japan.

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