One of the latest food scares has rocked Shanghai, China and the restaurant chains serving patrons there. Recent revelations have also rocked trust in the processed food system. A TV report on Sunday showed workers at a branch of Shanghai Husi Food Co Ltd, owned by Illinois-based OSI Group, using expired meats and those that had fallen on the floor.
Yesterday, five people connected to the company were arrested and detained by Shanghai police. Yum Brands Inc which owns KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut have cut ties with the company. Starbucks pulled away too, after having to recall its apple-chicken panini sandwiches from its Chinese chains. Hong Kong has just banned importation of OSI’s products.
But this food system issue has implications for the U.S. as well.
McDonald’s had said previously to Reuters, “If proven, the practices outlined in the reports are completely unacceptable to McDonald’s anywhere in the world.”
However, it looks as though they have changed their tune. Or at least, there’s a caveat. On Tuesday, they said they were no longer serving food from the primary Husi facility, but…
“According to OSI, Chinese authorities have inspected Husi’s other facilities, allowing us to confidently serve our customers,” the world’s largest hamburger chain said in a statement.
Oak Brook-based [Illinois] McDonald’s said it sourced chicken, beef, pork and lettuce from Shanghai Husi. Now, it plans to get such items from Husi’s “new state-of-the-art facility” in Henan.
An imaginary camera zooms in on a random McDonald’s patron who says, “Aw! I just ate there last week, man!”
In other words, this could be the first time people are realizing where their fast food actually comes from. And without really saying it, it sounds like McD’s just admitted to serving expired, dirty meat to U.S. customers. Measures were taken to seal and block meat upon revelation, but how long had expired floor-meats been used? McDonald’s feels “a bit deceived“? What about the people eating it?
This time it’ll be different, right?
McDonald’s is standing by OSI and its new facility in China, putting faith in current inspections. Why? OSI is basically “made for” McDonald’s because the group is the fast-food chain’s biggest supplier. And how would the world’s biggest fast food chain suddenly cut off its biggest supplier? Yum Brands and Starbucks didn’t really utilize OSI supplies that much.
Unfortunately, some former employees of OSI branches have alleged similar unclean working conditions in Illinois. One employee alleged cow hair, sweat, spit and chewed gum going into the vats.
Last Fall, the USDA lifted bans on Chinese processed chicken imports. Chicken produced here can be shipped to China for processing and then sent back to the states. Oddly, it remains a cheap process. And the imports aren’t really inspected. It gets worse – the USDA doesn’t plan on having on-site inspections or use inspectors for U.S. chicken, but will take the word of poultry processor employees. Why? It speeds things up and saves money.
Are these more signs that a top-heavy processed food system in the U.S. is about to topple?