Ex­pired meat scandal

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Global fast food gi­ants were al­ready hav­ing a hard time boost­ing their sales in the Chi­nese mar­ket be­cause of the ris­ing num­ber of health-con­scious con­sumers. Their dif­fi­culty has now mul­ti­plied thanks to a se­ries of food safety scan­dals and peo­ple’s in­creas­ing aver­sion to the not-so-healthy food they serve.

A re­cent on­line poll con­ducted by Sina.com shows more than two-thirds of scandal-weary din­ers have lost trust in­Western fast-food com­pa­nies be­cause of the lat­est scandal, or chou wen in Chi­nese, over the pos­si­ble use of ex­pired meat prod­ucts, or guo qi rou.

A lo­cal me­dia out­let in Shang­hai re­ported on Sun­day that Shang­hai Husi Food Co, a Chi­nese sub­sidiary of US-based OSI Group, had re­pro­cessed ex­pired beef and chicken, stamped their pack­ets with new ex­piry dates and sup­plied them to a string of fast-food chains, in­clud­ingMcDon­ald’s and KFC. The two Amer­i­can fast food chains were still re­cov­er­ing from the im­pact of an ear­lier scandal over the ex­ces­sive use of an­tibi­otics in chicken when the lat­est food scare dealt them another blow.

Food safety has be­come a mat­ter of great con­cern, and China has taken sev­eral mea­sures to ad­dress the is­sue. Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang promised ear­lier this year to make peo­ple re­spon­si­ble for food safety scan­dals “pay an un­af­ford­able price”. It is such “un­af­ford­able” price that peo­ple and en­ter­prises, in­clud­ing for­eign com­pa­nies, break­ing food safety laws should be made to pay.

While the lat­est scandal in­volv­ing for­eign food com­pa­nies serves as a wake-up call for many con­sumers who swear by for­eign brands amid the trust cri­sis fac­ing the do­mes­tic food in­dus­try, it also of­fers more food for thought. De­spite the grow­ing health con­scious­ness in China, young peo­ple still fancy Western fast food, an un­healthy op­tion for chil­dren and ado­les­cents that can be harm­ful to their health in the long run. And this fear is no less grave than the lat­est food safety scandal.

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