The use of tertiary butylhydroquinone in the fast-food chain’s fried chicken pieces meets Chinese food safety standards, McDonald’s unit in the nation said in an e-mailed statement. “The chemical is toxic to some extent,” the China Daily newspaper quoted Liu Qingchun, a nutritionist at the General Hospital of Armed Police Forces, as saying today. Liu said China’s standards allow its use.
McDonald’s has “strict quality control on all its food,” Jacky Sun, a spokesman for the company said by phone today. Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang on April 20 called for authorities to “significantly improve” the safety and reputation of domestic foods, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
McNuggets served in the U.S. also contain tertiary butylhydroquinone, a petroleum-based product, and dimethylpolysiloxane, an anti-foaming agent used in cosmetics and other goods. McDonald’s Holdings Co. Japan also serves chicken with the additives, which meet Japanese safety standards, Kazuyuki Hagiwara, a spokesman for the company said today. Both chemicals are “harmless,” Sun of McDonald’s China said.
“The State Food and Drug Administration is working with other relevant departments to monitor the products of McDonald’s McNuggets,” the agency said in a statement posted on its website. “The government asks food service providers to strictly follow the national standard use of food additives, and to ensure public food safety.”
Poultry is the second most-consumed meat in China after pork. Demand this year is estimated at more than 12.6 million tons, according to a statement on the industry website China Animal Agriculture Association.
Safety concerns about food have risen in China since contaminated milk powder killed at least six babies in 2008 and sickened about 300,000 children. That same year, pesticide- tainted dumplings imported from China sickened at least 10 people in Japan.
China opened its first 1,000 McDonald’s restaurants faster than any other country outside of the U.S. and is the main focus for investment in the region, Tim Fenton, McDonald’s president for Asia, Middle East and Africa, said in an interview on June 10. The fast-food chain plans to have 2,000 outlets there by 2013, he said.
The company, which opened its first restaurant in Shenzhen in 1990, now has 1,146 stores in China, the world’s third- largest economy.
--Jin Jing, Stephanie Wong in Shanghai, with assistance from Feiwen Rong and Yidi Zhao in Beijing and Naoko Fujimura in Tokyo. Editors: Dave McCombs, Ben Richardson.