Several major food giants like Master Kong, Uni-President and KFC are now trying to correct bad media publicity which emanates from their use of pickles sourced from Chaqi, a Hunan-based vegetable processing company along with Jinrui Food and other firms from the same province in central China, which produce pickles in primitive and poor hygiene conditions.
Media has portrayed workers stamping on pickled vegetables with bare feet and tossing cigarette butts casually on a heap of pickles that lay in a dirt pit, which is supposed to be the ‘production site’.
As a result of the negative publicity, Uni-President has immediately terminated its contract with Jinrui Food to supply it with pickles for its instant noodles. Another company, Master Kong, issued a formal apology acknowledging that it did source pickles from Chaqi, and has immediately cut off its links with the firm. Master Kong on the other hand has moved quickly to remove all the affected products from supermarket shelves.
In another separate development, China’s largest pork processor, Shuanghui, a unit of WH Group, has officially apologised and pledged to ‘disinfect all uniforms and enhance its food safety training for all employees’ after an undercover report showed workers wearing smelly uniforms, and used dirty towels to wipe the assembly line, and placing pork that had fallen to the floor directly back into packages.
The above scandals were uncovered during a 3.15 Gala, an annual TV show held on 15 March to shame companies that have violated consumer interests. Apparently, China food industry is still far from ideal but the TV Show certainly places a lot of indirect scrutiny on major players in the industry. According to Zhu Danpeng, a renown food industry analyst, the brand reputation and profits of the companies that were portrayed in the TV show might suffer tremendously from the unwanted publicity.