Chinese regulators investigating Wal-Mart store: Xinhua

SHANGHAI Sat Aug 9, 2014 9:39am EDT

The Walmart logo is pictured at its store in the Porter Ranch section of Los Angeles November 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian

The Walmart logo is pictured at its store in the Porter Ranch section of Los Angeles November 26, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Kevork Djansezian

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese regulators are investigating a Wal-Mart store in the southern city of Shenzhen for food safety violations, the official Xinhua news service reported, based on videos it said were taken by a Wal-Mart employee at one branch.

The U.S. retail giant told Reuters that it had launched its own investigation in response to the video and found no evidence to support its claims, nor had multiple visits by authorities uncovered any wrongdoing.

"We are comfortable saying, based upon this inspection, that none of the alleged activities exists in the store today," Wal-Mart said in a statement.

The voiceover to the video - made by an anonymous person who claimed to have worked for Wal-Mart for seven years - said employees in the store's deli section, operating under the principle of "don't change for a month," would often use cooking oil so old it had turned "black as soy sauce" to cook items like fried chicken for sale to customers.

They would also fry and sell meat that had passed its sell-by date, and sell rice infested with insects, the narrator said, showing footage of black oil in a fryer, expired meat, and worms crawling on rice.

The Xinhua article said no conclusions from the investigation by the Shenzhen Municipal Market Supervisory Administration had been made. Xinhua said Shenzhen authorities were testing samples of oil and meat from the store but results were not yet available.

The statement from Wal-Mart said the company was cooperating fully with local authorities and would take "immediate actions" to deal with any issues uncovered.

The Xinhua report said that reporters had accompanied law enforcement officers to check on the operations of the Honghu branch of Wal-Mart, and found that managers had used hand-written methods to specify the shelf-lives of some ingredients.

"Handwritten expiration dates can be changed at will, leaving supermarkets plenty of room to use expired ingredients," the report said.

However, the Xinhua report also quoted a local food safety supervision official saying that at present there is no legal mandatory requirement for when frying oil must be replaced, nor is there a law against adding new oil to older oil.

The video follows a series of undercover exposes of major Western food suppliers by Chinese domestic media, many using hidden video cameras.

For example, McDonalds and Yum Brands, owner of Pizza Hut and KFC, were forced to apologize in China after being caught up in a TV expose of questionable meat-handling practices by supplier Shangha Husi Food Co Ltd.

Wal-Mart came under fire in Chinese media earlier in the year after a supplier's donkey meat product was found to contain fox meat.

In 2011 Chinese authorities accused Wal-Mart of selling expired duck meat, and it was forced to shut down stores in Chongqing after they were accused of labeling non-organic pork as organic and selling it at a higher price.

(Reporting by Pete Sweeney; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Comments (8)
China’s goal is to get the USA out of it’s economy period. How difficult is it to strategically place employees who will create the chaos based propaganda over food scares designed to bring the big US chains down. China cannot be as bold as Russia regarding food sanctioning, though I am sure they would like nothing better. Trade agreements lead to a tangled web when one of the parties wants to exit but by law cannot. The US and China are in a dirty divorce, as for now the initial separation parameters are being worked out. In the end China will reap the benefit of the American business placed infrastructure.

Aug 09, 2014 10:42am EDT  --  Report as abuse
MonitorLizard wrote:
I smell yet another sanctioning of the US and a big, glorified US company at that. You go China. Fair’s fair. Oh, but then we know the US doesn’t play fair even with its own citizens.

Aug 09, 2014 11:50am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Burns0011 wrote:
On the other hand, this fits perfectly with local Chinese practices of taking shortcuts and outright lying about their products in order to minimize cost and maximize profit regardless of the risk to their customers. These Walmart stores are locally managed, locally staffed, and locally supplied.

It’s less that it’s Walmart, and more that this kind of cheating and unsafe food practices are prevalent in China.

Aug 09, 2014 2:04pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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