McDonald’s bitten by China’s state watchdog over food safety. Which side do netizens take?

March 16, 2012Jing Gao6 Comments, , , , , , , , , ,

On March 15, China’s Consumer Rights Protection Day, China Central Television wielded its camera at world’s largest fast food chain and exposed a number of dishonest and unsanitary practices – with its reporter masquerading as a busboy. However, the story takes a surprising twist, after the hashtag “I trust McDonalds more than I trust CCTV” took on. The matter was even brought to a vote on Sina Weibo, which asks netizens to pick a side.

In CCTV’s prime time show devoted to the Consumer Rights Protection Day, a voiceover narrated that, contrary to its assertion that food not served within a certain amount of time will be discarded to ensure customers freshness, the McDonald’s restaurant in Beijing’s Sanlitun area reset its timer or tampered with its Best Befores.

Video clip of the CCTV show

“At 12: 35 p.m., a tray of chicken wings were fried. The chicken wings are supposed to be kept for only 30 minutes. But until 2:35 p.m., the wings were still stored inside universal heating cabinets,” the voiceover narrates.

“According to McDonald’s policy, pies must be served within 90 minutes after they are cooked. Each pie has paper packaging, on which the kitchen is supposed to note the expiration time with a marker. However, a batch of pies that should have been discarded at 10:20 p.m. were able to survive until 11:20 p.m. with a stroke of a pen. Some workers even stripped off the old packaging, wrapped them with new ones and rewrote its expiration time.” “No McDonald’s restaurant would actually discard it. They all winked at it,” a worker said to the reporter while the hidden camera was still rolling.

The reporter also caught the restaurant using a bag of meat patties two days after their expiration date. “That gives more reason to use it immediately,” a McDonald’s worker said. Another worker dropped a patty onto the floor. He picked up the tainted patty and reused it, “Germs die the moment they are fried. No biggie.”

On the morning of March 16, the day after the show aired, the Beijng police made a sudden visit to the restaurant and inspected its food storage. A short while after the police left, the restaurant closed.

Reporets swarmed into the Sanlitun McDonald’s restaurant for the company’s comments.

Netizens watched the fire with much interest and enthusiasm. Undoubtedly, many condemned McDonald’s for fooling consumers. But quite a number of netizens questioned CCTV’s newsgathering method and its motive. Others sneer at how CCTV picks on small points to criticize. Some even have the suspicion that it was a PR battle that McDonald’s at first lost to CCTV, but later fought back with more cunningness.

Wang Yichao, a Chinese media person, criticized the masquerade in exchange for the petty scandal:

CCTV sent its undercover reporter to hide in McDonalds’ for 6 months before he was finally able to expose on the show its very trivial problems. In my opinion, this is typical abuse of undercover reporting and media power. Undercover reporting is not really forbidden. But it should be related to urgent and major public interests and should be used with caution.


The vote, organized by Xinmin Evening Post, asks netizens which party do they trust more, CCTV or McDonalds. Until press time, among the 800 netizens who participated, 39.6% said they are for McDonald’s, 27.4% said they are in favor of CCTV, and the rest 32.9% support neither.

An event page set up by user @Gong_Min, which called on netizens to order a meal at a McDonalds’ restaurant as a way of support.  (The vote page has already been taken down by @Gong_Min himself.)


Selected comments from Sina Weibo

广博雅正_丶航:I have the feeling that this is gonna be a hit. CCTV, if you have time, hide in state-owned enterprises. Guess you must have hidden in M for several months. [黑线]

等不急的青青: I trust! I absolutely have faith (in McDonalod’s)! Damn. Why don’t CCTV expose the gutter oil, poisonous milk and poisonous eggs? However bad McDonald’s is, it must be better than some restaurants who got sanitation certificates!

@吃拧了 :Even though I usually don’t eat junk food, McDonald’s are among the best in terms of sanitation. Quality SOP (standard operating procedure), uniform supply chain, electronic and efficient ordering system, fast and convenient delivery management system, and its marketing and PR, these are all what Chinese businesses should learn. Guess any restaurant in today’s China would be dirtier than McDonald’s.

李亦非:Look at McDonald’s PR. The devil has one-upped the wizard.

PenfoldsBin95Grange:Put aside the question of whether McDonald’s should be criticized by CCTV on March 15. There is no denying that McDonald’s, KFC and the like always sell junk food. Those who support McDonald’s, if you have kids, why not let your kids eat McDonald’s and KFC every day?

Misakin:Actually~ Who doesn’t know these after working part-time at McDonald’s?

陆碧玉-ISLAND:I trust neither. But McDonald’s strategy of shifting focus of attention is indeed a clever move, and a risky one.

大唐UV:This event must be launched by KFC, isn’t it? Really wicked…

孑孓大人:Please send undercover reporters to all kinds of Chinese restaurants. 6 months? 6 days is enough!!! Is it really necessary to pick on Western fast food for echoing the theme of March 15?

蔡磊8011:But, when it comes to food safety issues, which is about what goes into our mouths, who has the nerve to say that patties being reused after being dropped onto the floor is a trivial problem?

中易安时今强:CCAV (slang for CCTV) is a role model of pot calling kettle black.

atohitotsu:The McDonald’s incident is real. But CCAV is no good either.

sarah-芳华岁月:This event makes me repel M’s immediately.

Related articles:

6 comments to “McDonald’s bitten by China’s state watchdog over food safety. Which side do netizens take?”

  1. gatesofbabylon | March 16, 2012 | Permalink Reply


  2. [...] follow the working instructions.Dare you enjoy McDonald’s food anymore?The Ministry of Tofu posted photos of reporters flooding McDonald’s Sanlitun location in Beijing to request comment, and posted a number of netizen comments from Sina Weibo. A number of posts [...]

  3. [...] reportage de China Central Television (CCTV) n’a présenté aucune preuve des problèmes rencontrés en [...]

  4. Guy In China | March 16, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    Chinese propaganda aimed at helping Chinese restaurants flourish and framing McDonalds. You’re telling me that any ‘Mom and Pop’ restaurant is any different? I blame the individual works, not McDonalds corporation.

  5. [...] Ministry of Tofu posted photos of reporters flooding McDonald’s Sanlitun plcae in Beijing to ask comment, and posted a series of netizen comments from Sina Weibo. A series of posts prove [...]

  6. objective questions | March 20, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    i suppose you support anything selling poisonous and toxic food like the 21 killed by poisonous canteloupe in the US just last November, as long as it was foreign and not Chinese.

    if you criticize food security in China, why are you only going after Chinese corporations and not foreign ones, and when people go after foreign corporations, you act like your mom died?

Leave a Reply