Yum Brands Inc and McDonald's Corp are facing a new food
safety scare in China, denting the fast-food companies'
efforts to shore up reputations and businesses that were hurt
by a 2012 safety scandal in one of their biggest markets.
McDonald's and KFC parent Yum apologized to customers on
Monday after Chinese regulators shut a local meat supplier
following a TV report that showed workers picking up meat
from a factory floor, as well as mixing meat beyond its
expiration date with fresh meat.
The companies said they immediately stopped using the
supplier, Shanghai Husi Food Co Ltd, a unit of Aurora,
Illinois-based OSI Group, and had switched to alternates.
They added that the factory served restaurants in the
The report on China's Dragon TV brought Yum and McDonald's
back into the firing line following the sales-battering 2012
scandal that involved chicken pumped with excessive amounts
"We will not tolerate any violations of government laws and
regulations from our suppliers," said Yum China, which
required all of its KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants to seal up
and stop using all meat materials supplied by the Husi
The division, Yum's No. 1 business unit, had just seen its
KFC restaurants bounce back from the double whammy of the
food safety scare and a bird flu outbreak.
"If proven, the practices outlined in the reports are
completely unacceptable to McDonald's anywhere in the world,"
a China-based spokeswoman for McDonald's told Reuters.
Husi provided McDonald's with chicken, beef and lettuce, a
McDonald's U.S. spokeswoman said.
China is McDonald's third-biggest market as measured in
number of restaurants.
"I think this is going to be really challenging for both
these firms," said Benjamin Cavender, Shanghai-based
principal at China Market Research Group.
"I don't know that this is something an apology can fix so
easily, because at this point people don't have a whole lot
of trust that they have good systems in place," he added.
Yum shares were down 3.5 percent at $74.72 and McDonald's
shares were down 0.9 percent at $98.13 on Monday afternoon on
the New York Stock Exchange.
The Shanghai Municipal Food and Drug Administration shut Husi
down on Sunday after the local Chinese TV broadcast aired. In
addition to the meat safety violations, the program showed
workers saying that if clients knew what they were doing, the
firm would lose its contracts.
OSI said on its Chinese website that management was "appalled
by the report." The company has formed its own investigation
team, is fully cooperating with government inspectors and
will take all necessary actions based on results of the
"Management believes this to be an isolated event, but takes
full responsibility for the situation," OSI said.
OSI, which has close to 60 manufacturing facilities worldwide
and had revenue of more than $5 billion in 2012, has been
supplying McDonald's in China since 1992 and KFC and Pizza
Hut parent Yum since 2008, according to its website.
SUPPLY CHAIN ISSUES
McDonald's and Yum are the top two brands by sales in China's
$174 billion fast-food market, according to Euromonitor, but
face a challenge as local firms try to tempt cost-conscious
diners with healthy, home-grown fare.
Both companies said they are investigating the issues
highlighted in the report and said that switching suppliers
will cause some temporary product shortages.
News of the scare spread quickly to diners negotiating
Shanghai's lunch-hour rush on Monday.
"For now I won't go to eat at McDonald's or KFC, at least
until this whole thing settles down," said Xu Xinyu, 24, a
financial services worker, eating at a noodle shop near a
McDonald's outlet in downtown Shanghai.
Yet Chinese consumers may already have developed a
comparatively thick skin when it comes to food scandals.
"Isn't everywhere like this?" asked student Li Xiaoye, 20,
eating a beef burger in a Shanghai McDonald's outlet. "I'll
keep going because wherever I eat, the issues are all the
The incident highlights the difficulty in ensuring quality
and safety along the supply chain in China. Wal-Mart Stores
Inc came under the spotlight this year after a supplier's
donkey meat product was found to contain fox meat. It also
came under fire for selling expired duck meat in 2011.
OSI is one of McDonald's key meat suppliers and has a good
reputation, according to an industry insider speaking on
condition of anonymity. He added the incident highlighted the
issue firms faced enforcing strict processes with local
As well as Yum and McDonald's, OSI listed Starbucks Corp ,
Japan's Saizeriya Co Ltd, Papa John's International Inc,
Burger King Worldwide Inc and Doctor's Associates Inc's
Subway brand as clients in China, according to a 2012 press
A Starbucks spokesman told Reuters that the company does not
now have any direct business dealings with Husi Food.
Burger King, Subway, Papa John's and Saizeriya did not
immediately respond to requests for comment.