Yum Brands Inc.’s KFC is suing three companies in China for allegedly spreading rumors about the quality of its food, including that its chickens have eight legs, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The fried-chicken firm is fighting to regain lost ground in one of its most important markets.
KFC said on its Chinese-language website that three Chinese media companies tarnished its image by spreading false information about its products on social media.
It alleged that the firms spread rumors on microblogs and through photos and articles that claimed its chickens had six wings and eight legs.
The fast-food chain said it is seeking compensation of up to 1.5 million yuan (US$245,000) from each firm, an apology and an end to the alleged practices.
The companies are Ying Chen An Zhi Chenggong Culture Communications Ltd. in Shenzhen and Wei Lu Kuang Technology and Ling Dian Technology in Shanxi province, the report said.
KFC cited the Chinese government’s intensified campaign to clean up what it deems rumors on social media.
The move comes as Yum tries to win back consumers it has lost in China, which accounts for roughly half its revenue.
The firm’s woes began with a Chinese media report in November 2012 alleging that a KFC supplier had been using growth hormones and antibiotics to help chickens grow faster.
The claims spread quickly online and tapped into widespread consumer worries in China over food safety.
Government officials investigated and recommended Yum strengthen its poultry supply chain practices, which Yum says it has done.
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