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McDonald's Japan halts sales, imports of chicken from China after scandal

world Updated: Jul 25, 2014 15:58 IST

McDonald's said on Friday that all of its Japanese restaurants had stopped selling products made with chicken from China, in the wake of a scandal that saw expired meat sold to fast food giants.

More than 3,000 restaurants across Japan had also halted imports of chicken products from the country, the chain said, adding that it had switched to distributors in Thailand "to address the concerns of our customers".

"We made this decision in view of the growing concern over McDonald's chicken products made in China," the Japanese unit's chief executive Sarah Casanova said in a statement.

McDonald's Japan unit said the move would affect eight dishes, including Chicken McNuggets and Chicken Fillet-O.

The announcement marks a significant widening of the scandal after Japan's giant Family Mart convenience store chain and McDonald's restaurants in the country this week stopped selling chicken nuggets sourced from a scandal-hit plant near Shanghai.

On Wednesday, Chinese police detained five people from the unit of US food supplier OSI Group, in a case involving expired meat sold to fast food giants including McDonald's and KFC.

Shanghai authorities on Sunday shut an OSI plant for mixing out-of-date meat with fresh product, re-labelling expired goods and other quality problems, following an investigative report by a local television station.

The case has sparked calls for stronger regulation in a country which has seen repeated scandals over food and product safety.

The Shanghai factory's customers in China included McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut, coffee chain Starbucks, Burger King, 7-Eleven convenience stores and Papa John's Pizza, according to the companies.

US burger chain Carl's Jr. also used its products, Chinese media said.

Sheldon Lavin, chairman and chief executive officer of OSI, apologised and said what happened at the factory was "completely unacceptable".

"It was terribly wrong and I am appalled that it ever happened in the company that I own," he said, adding authorities have inspected the company's other facilities in China and had not found any issues.

His comments appeared in a statement posted on the company's China website dated Thursday.

This week, the Japanese government said it was banning "any food imports that were processed by the company in question".

Periodic food safety scandals in China are never far from Japanese shoppers' minds given the countries' vast trading and business links.

In 2008, 10 people in Japan suffered pesticide poisoning after eating dumplings imported from China, and earlier this year a Chinese factory worker was jailed for life for the crime.

In its last fiscal year, McDonald's Japan bought about 38% of its chicken products from China, with the rest imported from Thailand, a company spokeswoman told AFP.

"All of our chicken meals are now being made with poultry from Thailand," she said on Friday.