A meat packer in Henan Province Wednesday denied media reports that it produced food with sickened chickens that was sold to clients including fast-food chains Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and McDonald's.
"The company follows the laws and regulations and properly disposes of chickens that die before they reach our plant," the Henan-based Doyoo Group, one of the country's largest meat processors, said in a statement.
Workers from Doyoo's farms were quoted by the news portal china.com.cn Tuesday as saying that when mass deaths of chickens occur, the company collects the infected birds for direct food processing and the carcasses of the dead chickens are used to produce bone meal.
A worker surnamed Li from one of the company's farms in Xiangcheng county, Henan, said disease recently devastated a peep of chickens killing almost a third of the flock of 43,000.
"Doyoo decided to slaughter the surviving chickens as soon as possible, even though some were showing symptoms of the disease," Li said, adding the butchered, sick birds were sold to KFC and McDonald's.
KFC and McDonald's could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
The report also revealed that there were no food safety inspectors at the farm and the processing plant when the chickens were slaughtered. The company denied the claim saying strict quarantine procedures are always followed during processing.
The city food safety authority in Hebi also said Wednesday that a preliminary investigation into the online allegations and its regular surveillance show no dead or sick chicken have been slaughtered at the plant. The authority also said it will continue its investigation into the case and update the public in a timely manner.
Food safety concerns were again raised when the Shanxi-based Suhai Group was reported in November to be feeding dangerous additives to its fast-growing chickens as a way of making them reach their required weight within 45 days of birth. The Shandong-based Liuhe Group was also accused in December of feeding excessive amounts of antibiotics to chickens.
Zhang Hongfu, a researcher from the Institute of Animal Sciences under the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, told the Global Times that it is a common practice around the world to produce bone meal from dead animals.
"When companies produce the bone meal, they have to make sure the animals that died of disease are not infectious," said Zhang, adding that dead animal carcasses are a resource that should be recycled. He said large companies have up-to-date equipment and technology to properly handle the dead animals and it's important not to let the carcasses get into the underground market.
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