News Feature | July 21, 2014

KFC, Pizza Hut, And McDonald's Launch Food Safety Investigations

By Laurel Maloy, contributing writer, Food Online

U.S.-owned OSI Group is at the heart of a Chinese food-safety scandal where expired meat products were sold and served in Shanghai fast-food establishments

The news may not have been widely spread, and the name, Husi Food Company might not be an easily recognizable one, but the latest food-safety scare in China has strong ties to the U.S., as Husi Food is owned by the OSI Group of Aurora, IL.

A Shanghai television station reports that KFC, Pizza Hut, and McDonald’s restaurants were supplied expired beef and chicken products by Husi Food. Two of the three fast-food establishments — KFC and Pizza Hut — are owned by Yum Brands, based out of Louisville, KY. With sales totaling more than $13 billion last year, Yum can claim more than 40,000 restaurants worldwide, doing business in 125 countries.

According to Dragon TV, Husi repackaged expired beef and chicken products, putting new expiration dates on the packages, and then sold these packages to KFC, McDonald’s, and Pizza Hut locations.  The news report states that Yum Brands and McDonald’s are opening their own investigations into the alleged wrongdoing.

PMMI’s Food Safety & Traceability Report Infographic

The office of the State Food and Drug Administration in Shanghai is working with the police, while Husi has been shut down, the doors sealed, and any suspect products have been seized by the agency. McDonald’s and Pizza Hut have sealed and set aside at least 5,000 cases of beef, pork, chicken, and other products currently under investigation. Ranking third in the top three among China’s fast-food concerns, a sandwich shop chain, Dicos, says it has also stopped using sausage patties supplied by Husi. It was not clear if this was due to an abundance of caution, or because they too are caught up in the latest food-safety scandal to shock China’s populace. Another U.S.-owned company, Walmart, has also figured widely in China’s litany of recent food-safety scandals. China, the most populated country in the world, and having more than three times the population of the U.S., can also have a much larger infection rate due to foodborne illness.

Activists, such as Wu Heng, author of the website, Throw It Out The Window, created in 2013, are hoping to raise public awareness in the wake of a slew of China-related food-safety issues. His site has seen as many as a million views on a single day, an indication the Chinese public is listening and watching.  Tracking media reports on the issue of food safety since 2004, its database now has more than 3,000 entries. Users can browse by the type of food, the location of the establishment, and even by keywords, like “fake,” which is what prompted Wu, a Shanghai graduate student, to start his website. The entire venture was inspired by a report that his favorite dish may have been made with fake beef.

Protect Your Brand: Ensure Food Safety & Compliance With A Quality Management System

However, the bigger picture here is that Husi is a U.S.-owned company. The establishments affected are U.S.-owned fast-food chains. The U.S. is one of the global leaders in terms of innovation on food safety. The USDA’s FSIS and the FDA are upheld as examples to the world for protecting its residents from unsafe food. If the investigation bears fruit, this blatant effort to make more profits, while risking the health of the consumers it serves, is inexcusable, and one that should be punished to the full extent of the law. Ultimately, OSI Group, a humongous, international conglomerate, based right here in the U.S., is responsible for ensuring the efficacy of each one of its company’s food products. Ultimately, it is up to these U.S. companies to go above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to food safety. The alternative is to risk losing the world’s confidence in U.S. food products, a loss that can potentially, affect the entire economy.