Food safety and compliance issues earned Walmart some unwanted attention this week after it was learned that snacks made with donkey meat in China were also found to contain fox meat.
The incident received widespread attention among U.S. media outlets who found Walmart and fox-tainted donkey meat a delectable combination during a slow news week. The product in question was something called “five spice” donkey meat that Walmart sold in stores in the city of Jinan in eastern China. Fox was not supposed to be one of the spices in the product, but fox DNA and that of undisclosed other animals were said to have been found in the product, according to media reports.
To its credit, Walmart showed its concern for the matter by having the company’s highest ranking China executive issues a statement as opposed to a public relations spokesperson.
“We have been deeply shocked by this incident,” said Walmart China CEO Greg Foran. “It has provided a deep lesson and shown that we need to continue to increase investment in supplier management.”
According to Chinese media report, the issue of the adulterated donkey meat product came to light after a customer bought 1,600 packages of meat and then demanded compensation when tests he commissioned showed the donkey product contained fox meat.
It is a little strange that a customer would conduct their own DNA tests on products, which suggests there may be more to the story than meets the eye. Either way, the issue is a reminder that policing suppliers at a company the size of Walmart, which operates in some exotic locales, is an enormous challenge. When incidents do arise they tend to be magnified because of Walmart’s involvement moreso than if a local Chinese retailer had been found selling a donkey meat that contained fox.
That was the case a few years ago when Walmart was criticized in China, a country where counterfeit product and mislabeling is said to be rampant, when it incorrectly identified pork as being organic in some of its stores.