New nugget woes strain McDonald's already tarnished image

by Shusuke Murai

Staff Writer

As McDonald’s Japan struggles to repair its image, tarnished from last year’s expired meat scandal, two new incidents related to its Chicken McNuggets surfaced in restaurants in Japan in the last week, a company spokeswoman admitted Tuesday.

She said a piece of blue vinyl was found by a customer Saturday in a chicken nugget purchased at a McDonald’s restaurant in Misawa, Aomori Prefecture.

The fast-food giant also admitted it had received a similar complaint by another customer who bought chicken nuggets on Dec. 31, this time at an outlet in Koto Ward, Tokyo.

Company headquarters had been unaware of the case until it received a query directly from the customer Monday, after staff at the Koto Ward restaurant lost the 5-mm-long vinyl object and failed to immediately report the complaint.

“We deeply apologize for another inconvenience to our customers, at the time when we are struggling to regain trust,” spokeswoman Kokoro Toyama said, adding that the company was shocked by yet another problem involving Chicken McNuggets.

After food supplier Shanghai Husi Food Co. was found to have recycled out-of-date chicken meat by mixing it with fresh product, McDonald’s Japan switched its supplier of chicken products to a Thai firm in July.

With that scandal hanging over the company, McDonald’s Japan issued a projection in October that it would suffer a net loss of ¥17 billion in sales for the business year through December, the first time in 11 years that the firm would be in the red.

Although still under investigation, the McDonald’s Japan believes the two cases in Aomori and Tokyo are unrelated, Toyama said, as the nuggets were made on different dates — though they were produced in the same factory.

Toyama also said the object found in the Tokyo outlet may have been mixed in after the manufacturing process in Thailand.

To prevent foreign objects from contaminating products, vinyl used in the company’s factories are all colored, but the object discovered at the Tokyo outlet was reportedly milk white, according to Toyama.

As for the Aomori case, Toyama said that McDonald’s Japan has sent the object to an independent investigation organization to determine how the vinyl was mixed in, adding that the company will work hard to prevent a recurrence of the incident.

McDonald’s Japan also resumed sales of medium- and large-size portions of french fries Monday after a strike by port workers on the U.S. West Coast delayed imports, forcing the company to limit orders to just small portions.

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