25 February 2020
McDonald's built its business around hamburgers, fries and soft drinks. The expired meat scandal is a big blow to its pride and purse. Photo: Bloomberg
McDonald's built its business around hamburgers, fries and soft drinks. The expired meat scandal is a big blow to its pride and purse. Photo: Bloomberg

Stale meat scandal: No harm done to the appetite

McDonald’s now selling only soft drinks?

Some people are having a field day making up stories in the wake of a meat scandal that has embroiled the United States fast food giant and other top foreign-owned restaurants in the mainland.

But the joke is not lost on the company. A senior McDonald’s executive told CCTV he was shocked and outraged at the widening scandal that has led to people making fun of its signature dishes, saying he himself is a fan of Big Macs and McWings.

Now it appears McDonald’s may have knowingly procured expired meat from Shanghai Husi Food, the US-owned company at the center of the scandal.

Reports say McDonald’s ignored a tip-off from a former Husi employee that the meat supplier had been selling products past their sell-by dates from its Shanghai plant.

The whistleblower also went unheeded by government inspectors.

Shanghai Husi, owned by US meat giant OSI Group, reportedly keeps two sets of records — one for food inspectors and the other for internal use. The latter may hold the key to the origins of the fiasco. 

State news agency Xinhua reports that McDonald’s and Husi have been working so closely the latter would set up a plant wherever the former would operate.

In fact, the relationship between McDonald’s and Husi parent OSI goes back 50 years, according to the report. 

McDonald’s benefits from sharply lower prices of OSI meat products and from standards jointly developed by the companies, ensuring McDonald’s dishes taste the same everywhere.

That’s why, without OSI, McDonald’s has nothing to sell.

Last week, McDonald’s said it had suspended meat purchases from Shanghai Husi and stopped shipments of affected food products including chicken meat and lettuce. The next supply will come from an OSI plant in Henan province.

OSI Group chief executive Sheldon Lavin apologized for the incident at a news conference in Shanghai on Monday and pledged 10 million yuan (US$1.62 million) to promote food safety awareness in China.

The media backlash was fast and fierce. 

The official People’s Daily accused OSI of wanting to educate Chinese consumers that they will not die from eating burgers made from stale meat.

Ironically, McDonald’s and KFC, another player in the continuing saga, continue to attract hordes of customers.

One told the Economic Observer that it’s a matter of choice between two evils, meaning foreign restaurants serve safer and better food than their domestic counterparts. 

“If you’re concerned about gutter oil, poisonous food additives or sanitary conditions in local restaurants, you’ll find that McDonald’s food is at least clean and cheap and the taste is not bad either,” the customer said.

– Contact the writer at [email protected]


EJ Insight writer