BEIJING – An ongoing investigation into the food safety scandal that hit several popular fast-food chains last month has uncovered no evidence that spoiled meat made it to Japan, Chinese food safety regulators told their Japanese counterparts Wednesday in Beijing.
Chinese investigators made the assessment after reviewing video footage from cameras in Shanghai Husi Food Co.’s production facilities, officials from the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry from Tokyo told reporters following the meeting.
The company, Chinese regulators said, made products intended for domestic and export markets at different times and kept them in separate storage facilities, preventing cross-contamination.
Employees did, however, produce both sets of goods on the same production lines.
The talks follow revelations in July that Shanghai Husi sold expired and spoiled products to popular fast-food chains and convenience stores, including McDonald’s Co. and KFC Corp.
Chinese investigative journalists revealed the company’s brazen use of bad meat, going undercover to film the filthy conditions under which it produced such popular products as chicken nuggets and beef patties.
Following the revelations, Japan suspended all imports from Shanghai Husi.
The scare took a 15 percent bite out of McDonald’s July sales figures in Japan, the company said Tuesday.
The affair also left a bad taste in the mouth of Japanese convenience store group FamilyMart Co., which pulled Husi’s chicken products from its shelves days after the scandal broke.
Japan and China held the day’s working-level meeting under a framework developed after a 2008 incident in which poisoned dumplings from China sickened dozens of Japanese consumers.
The group last met in 2009, when Japan expressed hopes for ministerial-level talks on food safety issues.
Although there are no plans for future meetings, Japanese representative Akira Miki said that the two sides will reassess once the investigation has concluded.
In Japan on Monday, sources close to Sino-Japanese relations said that the meetings may present a first small step toward rapprochement between the neighbors, whose relations have sunk to their lowest point in decades due to territorial disputes and lingering differences over historical issues.
Miki, however, would not comment on the talks’ implications for the relationship, noting only that Chinese regulators understood the importance of the Japanese market.
Conciliation remains a distant goal and it is unclear whether the meeting represents real, albeit modest, progress or a continuation of the status quo approach to the countries’ bilateral relations.
China has long made a point of conducting its economic and political affairs on independent tracks, insisting that problems in one not touch upon the other.
Rather than highlighting improvement, the attention placed on the relatively low-level talks may simply serve to demonstrate how far the bilateral relationship has fallen.