Chinese court charges 10 mired in expired meat scandal at US food supplier OSI Group

A man walks past a logo of KFC, outside a restaurant in Shanghai, China.
A man walks past a logo of KFC, outside a restaurant in Shanghai, China.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (AFP) - The Chinese authorities have charged 10 people over "selling inferior products" in the wake of a food scandal that erupted last year at a unit of United States food supplier OSI Group, which saw expired meat sold to global fast food chains.

A Chinese court charged the defendants connected to OSI food-processing companies in Shanghai and Hebei Province "on suspicions of producing, selling inferior products", according to a statement published by the Shanghai People's Procuratorate on Wednesday (Sept 30).

The charges come more than a year after authorities arrested six officials from Shanghai Husi Food Co, a subsidiary of OSI, that operated a factory shut down by the officials in Shanghai for mixing out-of-date meat with fresh product.

In the scandal's aftermath, the US food supplier laid off more than 300 workers at the Shanghai plant.

OSI's clients in China originally included McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut, coffee chain Starbucks, Burger King, 7-Eleven convenience stores and Papa John's Pizza.

The controversy came to light after an investigative report by a Shanghai television station aired last year showing workers on the production line scooping meat off the floor and putting it back into processing machinery.

Following the revelation, McDonald's severed its relationship with OSI in China, but the change in suppliers caused widespread shortages of its menu items in the mainland, including Big Macs and Chicken McNuggets, for more than two weeks.

The investigation into OSI comes amid greater scrutiny of foreign companies in a range of industries, including the technology, pharmaceutical and auto sectors.