Eatery closed for rule violations

Updated: 2012-03-17 07:56

By Zheng Xin and Jin Zhu (China Daily)

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Eatery closed for rule violations

A food hygiene inspector checks out a McDonald's restaurant in Beijing on Friday. The restaurant was closed after being accused of selling expired food. Yin Yafei / for China Daily

A McDonald's restaurant in Beijing saw its business suspended and itself placed on rectification on Friday after a China Central Television program reported the day before that it had sold expired food.

The restaurant is in Sanlitun, a popular restaurant and entertainment area in the city's Chaoyang district.

"We are undertaking a systematic investigation of our quality inspections," said Weng Xiaomeng, manager of public relations for the McDonald's.

She said she didn't know how long the rectification will last.

Officials from the State Food and Drug Administration asked McDonald's franchise restaurants in China to examine their food-processing procedures, according to an announcement posted on the administration's website on Friday.

The Sanlitun restaurant, which failed to follow food-processing instructions, will be dealt with severely, the announcement said.

McDonald's has also been asked to apologize to customers, it said.

In the video, restaurant employees are seen changing the expiration time on packages and resetting timers on food warmers so they could keep expired food for a longer time.

One of the instances involved cheese that turns bad after it has been out of its package for more than 4 hours. Despite that danger, such cheese was still placed on burgers and other meat, some of which had fallen on the ground and were later picked up and served in the morning.

"All of the germs will die if you just fry the meat in oil," said a worker at the restaurant.

According to McDonald's food-preservation regulations, the meat served in its restaurants is supposed to be discarded at a certain amount of time after it is cooked.

"It (throwing away expired food) is impossible to do, and no restaurant would do it," said another worker. "We've just been turning a blind eye to it."

After CCTV's program was aired on Thursday night, many reporters went to the downtown restaurant.

When a China Daily reporter was there on Friday morning, the once bustling fast-food restaurant had been shut down.

Instead of customers forming lines as they waited for food, the restaurant contained only one or two employees, who were in its dark and empty back kitchen. A sign at the restaurant's door read, "business suspended".

In a statement released by McDonald's on Friday, the restaurant said it will carry out an investigation and further tighten its business practices.

McDonald's also issued an apology for violating operational standards on its website.

The CCTV program, "315 Evening Gala", has aired on March 15 every year since 1991. Coming in conjunction with International Consumer Rights Day, the program is intended to reveal business misconduct and to help consumers protect their rights.

The supermarket chain Carrefour has also been accused of deceiving consumers by selling expired meat and chicken stripped of feathers that it misidentifies as free-range chicken and then sells at a higher price. Those misdeeds are alleged to have taken place in one of the company's stores in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan province, according to the program.

A reporter from China Daily did not see any decrease in the number of customers coming to Carrefour during her visit to one on Friday morning.

But in response to the public outrage, the supermarket has decided to separate the two types of chicken to "avoid similar scandals in the future", according to Wang Shangwu, director of Carrefour's public relations department.

Carrefour also apologized on its website by promising to work with local industry and commerce departments to conduct an immediate investigation and by vowing to eradicate fraudulent practices and further tighten the process for managing food quality.

Among the companies reported on during the gala were some large Chinese brands, including China Merchants Bank and China Telecom.

"Most international companies have strict regulations on quality and management," Dong Jinshi, executive vice-president of the International Food Packaging Association, said on Friday.

"Their services and products always can be trusted. Problems, such as food-safety scandals and service complaints, are always happening in local franchise stores since the regulations cannot be carried out effectively.

"It (the latest McDonald's scandal) is a good lesson to international companies and stricter supervision of local stores is needed."

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Xiang Mingchao in Zhengzhou contributed to this story.