Scandal-hit CEO brands own company's practices ‘unacceptable'

A screen grab of the Dragon TV footage

The chief executive of OSI Group, the American owner of the meat processor under investigation by Chinese authorities for supplying expired meat to international fast-food chains including McDonald’s and KFC, has “sincerely apologised” for events over the last week.

What happened at Husi Shanghai is completely unacceptable,” Sheldon Lavin said in a chastening statement. “I will not try and defend it or explain it. It was terribly wrong, and I am appalled that it ever happened in the company that I own.

On behalf of Husi and OSI, I sincerely apologise to all of our customers in China. We will bear the responsibility of these missteps, and will make sure that they never happen again. That is my personal commitment and that of our organisation.”

Last weekend, Shanghai’s Dragon TV broadcast footage of OSI-owned Husi's workers repackaging expired meat for shipment to a number of international quick-service chains. The exposé immediately shocked Chinese consumers before coming to the attention of a global audience.

By Monday, the video had prompted McDonald’s and Yum! Brands-owned KFC and Pizza Hut to publish their own apologies to consumers, and had attracted the attention of Shanghai Food and Drug Authority investigators.

Five people were detained by police on Wednesday. It has also emerged that Zhang Hui, the manager of Husi's quality department, confessed during investigations that the company has been repackaging expired meat for years under the tacit approval of senior managers.

According to a report by Xinhua, China’s official news agency, Zhang’s claim was substantiated by the Shanghai FDA. 

We discovered during our investigation that some of the company’s illegal behaviour was not the behaviour of individuals, but rather an organised arrangement by the company,” Gu Zhenhua, its deputy director announced. 

The company has a set of systems to dispose of expired food, and there were records too, but both the system and records were going against the law of this country,”

Though this may have come as a surprise to OSI’s chief executive, who alluded in his statement to the company processing “safe, quality food at the highest standards”.

To have this occur at this Shanghai facility violates the tenets of our company and the values we embrace and live,” said Lavin, adding that OSI had already sent its “best team of global experts” to investigate.

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