On July 20, the public was appalled as a disturbing scene aired
over the nightly TV news broadcast and on the Internet: Workers
reprocessing long-expired meat into products at Shanghai Husi Food
Co. Ltd., owned by the U.S.-based OSI Group, were caught red-handed
by undercover reporters.
It was later revealed that the company had forged production
dates on at least 4,300 cases of smoked beef patties. The dates
were altered to January 2014 from May 2013. Among them, more than
3,000 cases—each weighing 7.2 kg—had already been sold. More
tainted food from the company was sent out to be sampled.
As Husi supplied products to many fast food brands, the food
safety scandal has had repercussions across the country. Many
brands—including McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut and Starbucks—have
involuntarily and unwittingly been tangled up in this incident.
Since the report aired, the U.S.-based OSI Group has withdrawn
all products made by Shanghai Husi from the market. Sheldon Lavin,
Chief Executive of the OSI Group, issued a formal apology and
admitted that what had happened was "terribly wrong." The group
said it is conducting a thorough internal investigation and will
take swift and decisive action against those responsible.
Chinese consumers have long held a fondness for and trust in
foreign names, due in part to the frequency of food safety scandals
that have rocked the nation in recent years. Multinational food
companies have taken advantage of this trust and made a fortune.
This favorable reputation, however, does not excuse negligence in
ensuring the safety of their products.
Food safety is a vitally important issue that concerns both
public health and people's livelihoods. Government departments
should strictly supervise the safety control at food-based
enterprises and at every step along the supply chain. More
stringent legislation on food safety standards should also be put
into place, as the current law and regulations are not effective
enough in promoting safe practices, enforcing truly punitive
penalties, and effectively deterring offenders. If the punishments
for wrongdoers in the field of food safety were more severe,
violators might be more wary of the consequences before taking
Besides vowing a thorough investigation and punishments for the
misconduct, the OSI Group said it would invest 10 million yuan
($1.62 million) into a three-year food safety education campaign in
China and establish an Asia Quality Control Center. Apparently, the
group does not want to lose the huge Chinese market, but reclaiming
the respect and trust of local customers might be a long uphill