When McDonalds China Can't Serve Burgers...

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 7/23/2014 01:30:00 AM
...it's like Amazon without books to sell. A colleague in China posted the picture above to his social media account in the wake of Chinese food supplier Shanghai Husi being found to have relabeled the expiration date of its meat products. Upping the visibility and impact of its food safety violations, it sold these products to several major Western food chains. We usually believe that tampering with food products is common among PRC firms and not Western ones who would think more carefully about tarnishing their reputations for a bit more profit, but this instance depicts the opposite: Shanghai Husi is a subsidiary of the OSI Group of America, a private meat processing concern headquartered in Aurora, Illinois of Wayne's World fame. You can't get more American than that.

With an already lengthy history of food scares, there was no other option for the Chinese authorities other than to disrupt the food supply chain to these chains:
Authorities suspended operations at Shanghai Husi, a unit of Aurora, Illinois-based OSI Group, after the local Dragon TV channel reported on July 20 its workers repackaged and sold chicken and beef past the sell-by date. The probe may affect chains such as McDonald’s, Yum’s KFC and Pizza Hut, Papa John’s International Inc. (PZZA) and Burger King Worldwide Inc. (BKW), which said they had bought and have since removed items from the supplier.
Unfortunately, the Chinese government doesn't go scot-free here. As it turns out, they had already been looking into the firm's practices prior to the investigative show on Dragon TV running its feature on Shanghai Husi. How do we know this? Part of the show contained the interrogation of a Shangai Husi employee stating that these practices have been going on for years now:
An unnamed quality manager at Shanghai Husi’s factory said company executives approved the use of expired ingredients, a practice he said had been going on for a few years, according to Dragon TV’s taping of his interrogation by authorities. Two calls to OSI China’s main office in Shanghai weren’t answered. The Shanghai city government’s media office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Shanghai Husi’s case would be handed to police if crimes were suspected, according to the regulator. It also ordered probes into all other China food-production operations invested by the OSI Group, including in Shandong, Guangdong and Yunnan. 
Instead of taking action only after the show was aired, the authorities ought to have cracked down as soon as they confirmed these irregularities not only to bolster their reputations but also to ensure public safety. When I travel abroad, I usually think of McDonald's as a haven for clean and safe (if not necessarily healthy) food. After all these years, I guess I should rethink that.Apologies won't work now, unfortunately.

UPDATE: For what it's worth, TIME speculates that finding against this firm may be part of Chinese efforts to undermine foreign companies operating in the PRC:
We can speculate why that might be happening. The government could be trying to reel in a few “big fish” to try to scare smaller fry into better behavior. Officials might be attempting to win points with the public by appearing to address issues of great public concern like food safety without roiling any Chinese interests. And in the process, the Chinese government might believe it can aid Chinese companies in their competition with foreign firms by undercutting the reputation of international brands...

The Chinese government has a long history of attempting to tilt the local playing field in favor of its own firms. Foreign carmakers, though very successful in China, are still forced to manufacture in the country only through joint ventures with Chinese firms — a restriction most other emerging economies don’t impose. Reports from chambers of commerce accuse Chinese bureaucrats of routinely hampering the expansion of foreign business by taking a “go-slow” approach when issuing mandatory permits and licenses.