What food safety? When in China, Do as the Chinese do

Alia | July 21st, 2014 - 10:25 pm

Operations at Shanghai Husi Food have been suspended by local health authorities on Sunday after reports that this US-owned factory has been reprocessing expired and discarded meat to extend its shelf life. Husi was supplying meat to KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s and many other US fast food chains in China. Since Sunday, most of these chains have issued announcements that they‘ve halted all uses of Husi supplies in their stores across China.

Food safety has been a hot-button issue in China in recent years, and national scandals of tainted or toxic food hit news headlines frequently. Part of the reason why many US food chains are extremely popular in China is the assumption that they have better food safety due to better quality control. In fact, higher-quality food offers have been part of their marketing pitches in China. Will the current scandal change the deal? Very unlikely.

Full list of brands impacted by the scandal

Full list of brands impacted by the scandal

According to reports from Beijing, lines outside KFC and McDonald’s stores are still long, and empty tables are still hard to find as of Monday. When one custom was asked about why he still ate at McDonald’s after the expired meat scandal, he answered:

“Food safety issues are a fact of life in China. McDonald’s is at least better than Chinese restaurants of similar kind.”

Indeed, comparing to poisonous rice or toxic chemical soaked vegetables, expired meat sounds like the lesser of many evils. What’s more interesting, many Chinese netizens actually side with these fast food brands, saying they are but trying to fit into a culture that is filled with food safety scandals. The question of why these brands dare to use expired meat in China, but not back in their home countries or in other markets keeps coming up.

While the Chinese media are hyping about the irresponsibility of “these foreign food chains,” many Chinese netizens think that someone else should take the blame.

“If KFC alone has food safety issues in China, then there must be something wrong with KFC. If McDonald’s alone has food safety issues in China, then there must be something wrong with McDonald’s. But if KFC, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Subway, Burger King and Starbucks all have food safety issues in China, and only in China, then there must be something wrong with China.” One netizen bitterly commented.

Many joked that it’s like the pot calling the kettle back for China to call out food safety problems at foreign food chains. They believe that a general lack of food safety regulations and the absence of effective and proper supervision are at the root of the problem.

The current scandal was exposed by journalists who went undercover for 2 months. Many netizens couldn’t help but ask: “Where is China’s FDA?”

At the end of the day, Chinese consumers are still going to vote by their feet. “I will continue to eat at McDonald’s or KFC. At least I’ve never had diarrhea after eating there – that’s something even the cafeteria at my university fails to achieve.” One netizen commented.  



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