Walmart is having to recall donkey meat from its Chinese retail stores due to the fact that it was tainted with fox meat. The recall is occurring in Jinan, the provincial capital of Shandong.
The international retail giant apologized to its customers late Wednesday, telling them that if they bought “Five Spice” donkey meat, they are eligible for a refund on their purchase.
Walmart says it is going to be helping to investigate its supplier after Chinese regulators discovered that the popular snack meat might contain meat from other animals. Earlier in the week, the Shandong Food and Drug Administration said that DNA testing had revealed the presence of fox meat in the product.
Walmart further says that it will work to create stronger food safety rules and will be taking legal action against the supplier who sold them the tainted meat. They add that the person responsible for the factory has already been detained.
Experts say the tainted donkey meat could cause serious harm to Walmart’s reputation in China as a supplier of quality food, putting a damper on its plans to open over 100 new stores over the next several years. According to the Institute of Grocery Distribution, China has the largest grocery market in the world, valued at $1 trillion. It is expected to hit the $1.5 trillion mark by the year 2016.
Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group in Shanghai, says, “This is another hit on Wal-Mart’s brand, meaning wealthy shoppers will start to lose the trust they had before.” According to CMR’s estimate, Walmart’s market share has dropped over the past three years from about 7.5 percent to 5.2 percent.
Walmart is not alone in facing problems in the Chinese food market. The French grocery chain, Carrefour SA, as well as American fast food restaurant chains McDonald’s Corp and KFC-parent Yum Brands Inc, have all been under the microscope over food safety concerns. And, China has had several food quality scares in recent years dealing with issues such tainted milk and recycled “gutter oil” being used in cooking.
Walmart made a statement to the public via Weibo–which is China’s alternative to Twitter–stating that the company had a “zero-tolerance” policy for food contamination. It further added that it would be increasing its food safety efforts by conducting routine DNA testing of animal products such as beef, donkey, mutton and venison, which can be easily contaminated.
Walmart further stated that its suppliers would be subjected to third party inspectors and that all parties suspected of fraud would be turned over to the local police.
Donkey meat is a popular snack in certain parts of China. Overall, however, it only makes up a very small portion of the meat consumed in the country. In the year 2011, China slaughtered around 2.4 million donkeys for food.
The selling of fake or inferior meat products in China has been an ongoing problem, with rat, fox and mink meat being passed off as more expensive meats. The scandal which caused Walmart to have to recall tainted donkey meat is only the latest incident.
By Nancy Schimelpfening