Starbucks apologizes for selling expired food in some China stores

Starbucks China

Chinese health officials reportedly uncovered more food-safety concerns across several Starbucks branches after the American coffee chain issued an apology for concerns flagged by state media the day before.

The apology: Starbucks apologized on Monday after state-run The Beijing News newspaper published a report detailing some of the health safety concerns found in two of the American chain’s stores in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, during an undercover investigation, according to Reuters.

  • Our internal investigations have confirmed that the partners (employees) of the two Wuxi stores reported by the media on December 13 violated our operational procedures. Safeguarding food safety is our foremost responsibility,” the company’s China division wrote in a statement, South China Morning Post reported.
  • This incident has revealed the need to strengthen daily implementation of our food-safety standards. For this, we sincerely apologize to all Starbucks customers. [We will] invest in enhancing technologies to mitigate risks of human errors or intervention, addressing the root cause of such incidents.”
  • In response to the controversy, Starbucks will reportedly conduct inspections across all of its 5,400 stores in China and retrain its staff to “strictly implement Starbucks food-safety system.” It also pledged to work with officials in addressing the scandal.

What happened: During the undercover investigation, which took place between late October and mid-November, two journalists from The Beijing News discovered that employees of the Starbucks branches on Zhenze Road and Changxing Building had used expired ingredients in its drinks, state-run Global Times reported.

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  • In addition to its report, The Beijing News also published videos that the undercover journalists took. In one video, Starbucks staffers can be seen selling unsealed bread that should have already been tossed out.

  • Employees from the two branches were also found replacing a chocolate sauce bottle’s expiration label and allegedly selling expired pastries and cacao nibs, WION reported.
  • After investigating 82 out of the 87 Starbucks branches in Wuxi, the Wuxi Market Supervision Administration released a report stating that 15 of the branches did not comply with food safety standards. 
  • Some of the concerns raised in the report include “employees not wearing hats, disorderly placement of items in processing areas and incomplete disinfection records.”

Other details: Regulators in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, found more than a dozen issues in some of Starbucks’ branches in the city a day after the coffee chain issued its apology.

  • On Tuesday, health authorities in Suzhou found that 18 out of the 226 Starbucks branches in the city also had issues and food safety hazards, including “uncovered garbage cans in the processing area, employees not wearing masks [and] mixed storage of food and non-food in the warehouse.” 
  • That same day, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate published an op-ed criticizing the chain. It referred to one of The Beijing News videos which shows a Starbucks employees in Wuxi arguing that their branch would have to pay for the expired items that are discarded.

Featured Image via Cristian Ungureanu

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