China / Hot Issues

Shanghai vows harsh punishment after food scandal

Updated: 2014-07-28 20:39

SHANGHAI - Shanghai's top official on Sunday pledged "severe punishment" for anyone involved in a food safety scandal that has spread from the Chinese financial hub to Hong Kong and Japan.

Han Zheng, Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Shanghai Municipal Committee, told a meeting convened to deal with the scandal which has prompted public scare that any company violating the law in the city would be severely punished in accordance with the law.

The move came a few days after a local TV station reported that Shanghai Husi Food Co., Ltd, a meat supplier owned by U.S.-based OSI Group, mixed fresh and expired meat.

The scandal has dragged in global food brands including McDonald's Corp, KFC-parent Yum Brands Inc. and Starbucks Corp..

Five people have been detained over the scandal where regulators in Shanghai said Husi forged production dates on its beef products and sold them after their expiry.

As part of his pledge, Han said that journalists and whistleblowers, which have played an important role in exposing the scandal, should be protected.

"Media's watchdog role in this case should be viewed as a positive energy," he said.

Han promised that investigation into the incident should be accurate and the results should be disclosed to the public in a timely manner.

The official urged the supervisory body of the government to remain wary and carry out their duty in a proactive fashion.

"(You should) take notes from what had happened to prevent similar cases from happening again," Han said.

In a statement posted on its website on Saturday, OSI Group said it would "withdraw all products manufactured by Shanghai Husi from the marketplace."

The group also said it was conducting a thorough internal investigation into any possible failures on the part of current and former senior management.

As the scandal flares up, companies involved have made quick response.

McDonald's China said that it would buy meat from another subsidiary of OSI Group to replace its original supplier, while McDonald's Japan decided to halt chicken import from China.

Shanghai's determination to punish the wrongdoers in the scandal has been welcomed in China, where food safety remains a big concern for consumers.

But some voice their dissatisfaction over the role of the supervisory body in the scandal.

"The head of Shanghai's food watchdog should resign since the supervision did not work at all in the scandal," said microblogging user Longmianzimian.

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