UPDATE: Yum says its Little Sheep hotpot restaurants in China aren’t part of the tainted mutton scandal. A spokeswoman says in part: “There is no evidence, none whatsoever, of any adulterated product anywhere in our system.” That being said, the company is going to make extra sure of that, out of an “abundance of caution.”
A spokeswoman sent an emailed statement to Consumerist regarding the situation, saying:
Little Sheep requires the purchase of high quality mutton from only two approved suppliers. We regularly audit them and require all franchisees to only purchase from those approved vendors. There is no evidence of any adulterated product anywhere in our system. Out of an abundance of caution, we will re-verify no one has violated our standards.
Chinese authorities are trying to get a handle on the unfortunate rat being sold as mutton situation, and it seems Yum Brands is linked to a wholesaler accused of selling mislabeled mutton. Shanghai food safety inspectors and police teamed up to raid the wholesale market on Friday, and found packages that didn’t have production dates or ingredients listed, but were labeled “New Zealand mutton.”
Reuters says some meat had been sold to several restaurants, including some locations of a hotpot chain owned by Yum. The meat there is being tested, and so far Yum is staying mum. One official reportedly told a newspaper that it didn’t get meat from the suspect supplier.
Last week police cracked down on a crime ring that had apparently been selling more than $1 million worth of rat and other small mammal meat as mutton, after Chinese officials started taking a closer look at food safety amidst a new bird flu outbreak. It’s unclear if any customers were served the suspect meat.
Yum is already hurting over in China as a result of bird flu fears, as most of its 5,300 restaurants in that country are KFC outlets. If it turns out that its hotpot stores are connected to the mutton/rat controversy, that could prove worrisome for the company.