KFC has struck more than 1,000 small chicken farms from its supply network in a bid to tighten quality control after the "instant chicken" scandal.
The company, a subsidiary of fast food giant Yum Brands Inc, told reporters yesterday that they would hasten the elimination of chicken farms and suppliers, test chicken meat for illegal drugs and encourage farmers to improve their methods.
"We saw hidden safety danger in the chicken supply chains from the incident and we are now taking action to eliminate those dangers at source," said Sam Su, chairman of Yum Restaurants China. "Starting now, we will stress strict management and the principle of zero tolerance in food safety. We will immediately drop any supplier that lacks the determination or the ability to manage breeding well."
The "instant chicken" scandal got its name after China Central Television reported chickens reared for KFC were being fed chemicals and 18 kinds of antibiotics to keep them alive and speed up their growth.
On January 10, Yum Brands apologized for the scandal and conceded that it hadn't reported excessive antibiotics detected in samples to the authorities. It said it had found faults in food testing procedures, and a lack of communication inside the company and with the public.
Also in January, an announcement on KFC's website said Yum Brands had destroyed batches of raw chicken suspected of being contaminated with an antiviral medicine, amantadine, which can affect the central nervous system.
Yum Brands CEO David Novak has said the company would need the "gift of time" for the controversy to die down, according to The Associated Press. Even before the chicken scare, sales growth in China was slowing and it fell into negative territory in October.
Executives blamed slower economic growth and comparisons with earlier explosive expansion. But KFC and other Western fast food chains also face mounting competition from young but ambitious Chinese rivals.
According to The Beijing News, Yum Brands, which also owns Pizza Hut, estimated that its January sales in the Chinese market had fallen by 37 percent, while KFC's sales alone were estimated to have dropped by up to 41 percent.
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