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Whistleblower Suspended As Investigation Finds Wal-Mart Meets Food Safety Standards

Posted: 08/12/2014 5:42 pm
walmart whistleblower food scandal

The anonymous whistleblower poses with a letter announcing his suspension from his job.

The initial findings of a government investigation into a Shenzhen-area Walmart have not shown that staff were engaged in unsafe food practices, despite an employee going undercover to show brazen violations of food safety standards. That employee has since been suspended.

The Shenzhen Market Supervision Management Department – Luohu Division has announced that a preliminary investigation has not found any illegal activity at the Shenzhen Walmart store, reports Yangcheng Evening Report. The anonymous informant had made the allegations in a television report in which he said the store’s upper management were aware of all incidents because they were the result of cost-saving measures undertaken by the store.

Among the allegations of improper food preparation include the prolonged use of frying oil that was not changed for a month at a time, the use of expired meats in customer meals, and instances where rice overgrown with worms was re-sold in the prepared foods department.

While the investigation is still ongoing, we have some clues as to how the investigation is being conducted.

walmart food safety scandal

The Shenzhen Market Supervision Management Department has inspected the operations area, storeroom, and freezer room at the Honghu Walmart store. Inspectors have taken a total of six samples: frying oil, rice, and two each of cooked beef and raw materials.

The inspection said samples of cooking oil taken at the Walmart in question “met standards” despite the same report admitting that national Chinese standards do not provide any clear regulations on the use of cooking oil.

The inspectors have still not yet found any evidence of worms appearing in rice, which apparently happened in March 2013, according to the whistleblower’s video. A source said that may be too long ago to matter to the investigation:

If he was able to record a recent video and then report it on the same day, then there would have been a better result.

The preliminary investigation has also not found that Walmart exceeded the time limits associated with the preservation of meat ingredients.

Walmart previously denied the allegations made against it, and insisted it upholds the highest safety standards while remaining more than willing to assist any and all official investigations.

walmart food safety scandal

Meanwhile the employee who blew the whistle is collecting wages during his suspension. A notice the employee received on August 10 reads:

Although the business department has verified in a preliminary investigation that your complaint is not factual, there may still be a follow-up investigation. As the complainant, there is an obligation for the business department to do a follow-up investigation. At the same time, the company will publicize the results of this internal investigation and will require your cooperation. In order to advance to the next stage of investigations, the company has decided to stop employing you.

The informant said he blew the whistle after being reassigned to the meat department on July 29, a move that made the employee extremely dissatisfied. Furthermore, the informant said that he had previous altercations with his store superior, one of which was reported to the police.

walmart food safety scandal

However, he said these factors didn’t cause him to come forward:

I don’t want to hide my conscience anymore. If I wanted to make money, I could have gone to the industry department and made a report to earn a reward. I just want to let the customers know just what they are eating at Walmart.

The employee had three videos that were recently used as part of the television news report: a January 2014 video depicting old oil that wasn’t changed, a February 2014 video depicting the use of expired meats in which the employee himself altered a best before date, and a March 2013 video of rice that was allegedly infested with worms and sold.

The informant said turning to the media has left him isolated:

No employees are willing to take a stand on this and admit what they have seen and done. Instead, they say that they don’t know anything. It’s like as though I’m the one person that is deliberately provoking Walmart.

No word on when the full report will be published.

Photo: Southcn


Walmart China Hit With Food Safety Scandal As Employee Goes Undercover to Detail Violations [UPDATED]

Posted: 08/8/2014 6:23 pm

walmartJust as Shenzhen looks to welcome several new stores in the near future, Walmart is now dealing with its own food safety scandal. A senior employee, who has been with the company for eight years, has detailed many of the company’s unsafe food preparation techniques.

On August 7, the Guangdong news program “One Time” broadcast an episode in which a long-time employee of the Walmart in Gonghu, Shenzhen claimed the store engages in a number of unsafe food preparation practices. To prove it, he agreed to wear a camera and go undercover while on the job.

This employee works in the prepared food section where foods are cooked for Walmart customers to purchase. He’s worked in the section for his entire eight years with the company.

walmart food safety scandal

Since last year, Walmart has implemented a strict cost control policy in order to maximize profits.

The employee alleges that the oil used to deep fry foods for customers is of inferior quality because it is regularly reused. As seen in the video, the oil used to cook a hundred pieces of chicken has already turned dark, but because half a bucket of new oil is added to the used oil, they are able to escape detection.

The unidentified employee said:

According to my vast experience, the oil is not changed for half a month to a whole month at least. Sometimes, it’s not even changed at all. When workers copy the kitchen records, they would write, ‘(Oil) already changed.’

The whistleblower also revealed that raw ingredients for cooked foods are often a week old. Despite being a supermarket, fresh ingredients come in once a week and are kept refrigerated at 0 to 5 degrees Celsius to well past the food’s date of expiry.

walmart food safety scandal

According to the employee, another incident involved a customer who returned a bag of rice because it had grown mold and attracted worms. However, instead of throwing it away, the rice was given to the cooked foods department which prepared and sold it to customers for lunch.

The expose has attracted the attention of the Luohu Sungang Trade Office, which is now investigating. A spokesperson for Luohu Food Inspection admitted there is no expressly mandated time for when to change cooking oil, but that tests can determine its quality.

Meanwhile, Walmart President and CEO Sean Clarke just announced in a meeting with Shenzhen mayor Xu Qin that as many as nine new Walmart stores may be coming to Shenzhen in the next five years.

Shenzhen mayor Xu was quoted as saying he hopes Walmart will take the lead in ensuring food safety and in providing high quality food to city residents. Clarke was quoted as saying Walmart has strict internal tests when it comes to food quality and adheres to a rigid standard in purchasing its products.

walmart food safety scandal

UPDATE 2:59pm August 9: Walmart has completely denied the allegations of improper food preparation, reports Foshan Daily.

The results of the inspection carried out by Luohu Food Inspection have not yet been revealed to the public.


Photos: Xinhua, Want China Times


Corruption crackdown hits two officials in Shenzhen

Posted: 01/16/2014 11:00 am

Xi Jinping said this week that efforts to fight corruption need to be doubled. Shenzhen’s government appears to be listening after some noteworthy arrests were made.

Two Shatoujiao Customs officials were arrested Jan. 10 by Yantian People’s Procuratorate on suspicion of bribery, Xinhua reports.

Mr. Wu (51), who is head of customs and excise was arrested Jan. 10 along with the allied party secretary Mr. Chen on Jan. 10 after an investigation that commenced at the beginning of the month, Shenzhen Municipal People’s Procuratorate told reporters. Seven customs officials have been placed under investigation for corruption this week.

Shatoujiao Customs has jurisdiction over both Zhongying Street checkpoint and Daya Bay checkpoint. Wu earlier served as head of customs and excise at Luohu Checkpoint and was appointed to his current role in 2010.

Gan Xiaojuan allegedly used fake identities, image courtesy of Nandu Daily

In another, more bizarre case, somebody else may fall after the retired head of the Luohu District Housing Authority Gan Xiaojuan was accused by her ex-lover of using dual identities to purchase multiple properties. Luohu CPPCC member Chen Zhilan lived with Gan for 10 years and also claims she cheated him out of money, according to 163.

Chen claims that Gan owns five apartments in Luohu alone and between 2004 and 2009 took him on holiday to a number of countries including Vietnam, Myanmar, Australia, Finland, and Germany. Gan stands accused of spending public money on herself.

Gan denies any wrongdoing and has welcomed the investigation. The date of the court hearing is yet to be confirmed.


Chinese family values group promoting marriage stability in Shenzhen

Posted: 09/24/2013 6:00 pm

A charity has been set up in Shenzhen to help married couples in the city endure hardship as a means of promoting marriage in the city, Shenzhen Evening News reports.

As well as offering financial support to couples, the charity behind it, which was launched in Luohu District over the weekend, will also hold free group weddings, organise match-making activities, give lectures and offer free counselling and legal advice to couples. The aim of the charity, a subsidiary of Shenzhen Charity Foundation, is to combat the high divorce rate in China, which has risen for seven straight years. The organisers describe marriage as “a cornerstone” of society.

The Luohu-based Jiahua Jewelry Company is helping fund the charity along with the Shenzhen Charity Foundation.

How couples are expected to prove that they’re happily married to get funding is yet to be explained.

The assertion that marriage is a cornerstone of society is one frequently made by conservatives in the Anglophone world. Britain’s conservative prime minister David Cameron has long proposed offering tax breaks to married couples. For this he has come under fire from such illustrious figures as JK Rowling, who was a single mother on government assistance before her books started getting published. She called Cameron completely ignorant of the plight of single mothers.


Shenzhen’s Super Steak fined RMB1.2 million for selling unqualified beef

Posted: 08/7/2013 7:00 am

Super Steak in Coco Park, picture courtesy of Google Images

The Shenzhen Food Safety Supervision Administration has fined Western restaurant Super Steak 1.2 million RMB for selling unqualified beef, China News reports.

A month ago, authorities seized 441kg of the company’s beef for testing. Some was found to contain clenbuterol, a drug with dangerous side effects such as high blood pressure and nervousness. It is not permitted for use in China, the United States or the E.U on food producing animals.

In the aftermath of the testing done on the Super Steak beef, authorities investigated 74 batches of beef and pork from 31 restaurants in the city. Only one was found to be unqualified. The unqualified batch was of pork at the Made in Kitchen restaurant in Luohu District and the case is being investigated.

Of course, this is just the latest of many food safety scandals to hit the Pearl River Delta in recent years.

However, it’s not all bad news. UNESCO reported last month that the capacity of journalists and members of the public to report on food safety issues is improving in China.


Shenzhen’s Dameisha beach deemed too filthy for foreign guests

Posted: 07/19/2013 7:00 am

The Shenzhen Special Zone Daily has published a report on the cleanliness, or lack thereof, of Yantian District’s Dameisha Beach after a local businessman complained that the beach was too filthy for his foreign guests.

On the evening of Friday July 5, Mr He and his two clients, an American and Canadian, decided it was too hot to stay inside, so went to Binhai Park on Dameisha beach. However, they only lasted 10 minutes in the water as they were sick of plastic bags and candy wrappers getting stuck to their bodies as they waded.

Binhai Park during better days, courtesy of Google Images

Having heard He’s complaint, a reporter went to Binhai Park on July 13 to see for himself what the fuss was about. He arrived there before lunchtime when there were already almost 10,000 people on the beach. The water was nowhere near as crowded as it would be a few hours later but the sand was already covered in bottles, candy wrappers, and the shells and cores of eaten pieces of fruit.

There were also plastic bags blowing around, and to top it all off, the reporter saw trash cans that were half empty.

A man at the beach named Mr Wang who lives in Buji told the paper that the problem was a lack of suzhi or character among some beach goers. But he also said that, considering the number of people who swim there, it is unrealistic to expect the water to be clean by international standards.

A Mr Qin who had come from Luohu District with his family described littering on the beach as “immoral as well as disgusting.”

Big things have small beginnings, courtesy of Sina Weibo

In other news about people lacking suzhi, a woman in Shenzhen’s Baoan District has drawn complaints from neighbours after gaining a reputation for regularly throwing garbage and even feces off the roof and directly onto the ground in her residential complex. You can see the news report, including footage of her in the act here.

But it’s not all bad news on the suzhi front. In recent days, the image on the right of a migrant worker cleaning up after himself on the subway has gone big on Sina Weibo.

The worker was overcome by some mild nausea, and when a stranger gave him a tissue to wipe his mouth, he first got down and cleaned the floor, a respected Panyu-based microblog has claimed.


Another sinkhole opens in Shenzhen, fortunately this time it was in a green belt

Posted: 06/25/2013 7:00 am

Living in Shenzhen, we are often reminded how fleeting life is.

In March, a man in Futian District was killed when the ground collapsed underneath him. Then in May, a massive sinkhole killed five in Longgang District.

This could easily have killed somebody, courtesy of Sina Weibo

Yesterday another sinkhole opened in Luohu District, but thankfully this time it took place in a greenbelt and there were no casualties, The Daily Sunshine reported in its microblog.

The incident took place around 1 p.m. at the intersection between Huali Road and Fenghuang Road. Repair work started immediately.

The Guardian gives an introduction on the causes of sinkholes:

In the language of geologists, the process that causes sinkholes is “the creation of a void which migrates towards the surface”. In the language of the layman, when there’s not enough solid stuff left underneath to support what is left of the loose stuff above, the whole lot collapses. The resulting depressions characterise what is known as a karst landscape, in which hundreds or even thousands of relatively small sinkholes form across an area that, seen from the air, can appear almost pock-marked.

But it’s not just scientists who have interesting things to say about sinkholes. The philosopher and theologian Jeremy Goad has this to say about the phenomenon:

For a variety of reasons (and, as I discussed in my previous post, for no particular reason), sinkholes made me question God. “Why, God, did you create a world in which the ground gives way underneath people’s feet? Is this really a result of humanity’s sin? Did sinkholes really not occur prior to the fall? Do I really believe in the fall? Do I really believe in Creation? Do I really believe in God? Do I really believe in Christ?” There was no specific logic to my questions. There was no motivating factors for this line of inquiry.

It felt like an avalanche of doubt, stemming from seemingly nothing and and yet in an instant it was gargantuan and oppressive. Like a Top Fuel dragster once completely motionless and in seconds racing at unfathomable speeds, I went from faith to uncertainty directly. I couldn’t control it. I wasn’t particularly happy about it. And I wanted the argument that would win back my faith.


Shenzhen primary school teacher injures herself after pushing student out of way of car

Posted: 06/3/2013 7:00 am

During the build-up to International Children’s Day which fell at the weekend, news related to primary school children in the region and the adults who were supposed to be protecting them was overwhelmingly bad.

However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom.

Zhang Xufen is recovering in hospital

Last week, one male primary school student was crossing the road in Shenzhen’s Luohu District when he was about to be hit by a car. A teacher saw what was about to happen and pushed the boy out of the way, leaving herself to be run over by the vehicle, Shenzhen Satellite Television reports.

The boy, surnamed Xiao, had just left the candy shop opposite Cuibei Primary School and was returning to campus with his younger sister when the incident took place.

The teacher, Zhang Xufen, is recovering in Shenzhen People’s Hospital after the front wheel ran over her left leg and the back wheel was inches away from running over her head.

The driver, Mrs. Zhao, took her to the hospital herself. She confessed to being in a hurry but traffic police don’t appear to be pursuing the case.

Huang Wenzhen, vice principal of the school, told reporters that Xiao’s parents had sent flowers and thank you notes.

Zhang being presented with her award.

Zhang has been described by colleagues as being of saintly modesty. She insists any teacher would have done the same in her position.

Several days after the incident took place, Zhang was awarded 10,000 yuan for her bravery and selflessness, according to XKB.

Chapter 56 of Rolf Dobelli’s “The Art of Thinking Clearly,” which was published this year, is titled: “How Bonuses Destroy Motivation.” In it, Dobelli argued that such monetary rewards cheapen acts of kindness.

What do you think?


Shenzhen finding new ways to keep streets clean: now building public toilets for pets

Posted: 01/30/2013 7:00 am

An activity was held to promote “the civilized raising of pets” in Dongmen Cultural Square in Shenzhen’s Luohu District Monday. At the meeting, it was declared that Luohu District would lead the way in building public toilets for pets to help keep the streets clean, Shenzhen Special Zone Daily reports.

The paper revealed that the district has already built 80 of the toilets and has so far installed 30 for a trial period. The drive started at the end of last year ahead of the city’s new civility laws coming into effect.

Each toilet will have an area of about 1 square metre and be located on the greenbelts by the sides of roads and in parks.

By the end of this year, the district hopes to have over 1,000 of the toilets.

As always, netizens reactions were mixed. One Sina Weibo user resented having his tax money used to help dog owners. Another said the reason why there was so much dog feces on the streets was that dog owners were all selfish and immoral. Another supported the move but hoped that dog owners would have the consideration to cooperate.


Drunk guy in Shenzhen goes on a rampage, randomly attacks cops

Posted: 01/24/2013 7:00 am

Refusing to cooperate with police is seldom a good idea. But one couple in Shenzhen’s Luohu District went even further than mere disrespect on January 17 Guangdong Satellite Television reports.

At around 9 p.m., Dongmen Police Station received a call about a violent middle-aged man who was roaming the streets nearby. Officer Lin, the policeman who was the first to try to subdue the man, told the TV station that the drunkard grabbed his shirt then punched him.

He then started swearing at the police and shouted that he had connections at the Ministry of Public Security that he would call in to get them fired.

He then walked around punching every cop he saw. It took four policeman to subdue him.

At the police station he continued to act the same way. When it was discovered that his surname was Song, he denied having this name.

However, the most bizarre part was yet to come. When his wife arrived, she did not help the police calm her husband down. In fact, she was as uncooperative as her husband. When she got frustrated, she started ripping her clothes off and yelling that the police had sexually harassed and raped her.

The CCTV footage does not support her claim. The case is now being investigated by Huangbei Police Station.

The incident bears some similarity to that of Beida Man earlier this month. We are entering the festive season, so be extra careful of the increased number of drunken jackasses roaming the streets and driving on the roads.

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