Walmart recalled donkey meat supplies from some Chinese outlets after DNA tests revealed the presence of fox meat. Found in the Shandong province, the tainted donkey meat will surely further damage Walmart’s reputation in China as the company has had similar food safety problems in the past.
The finding was announced by the Shandong Food and Drug Administration after a Shandong man surnamed Wang thought the “donkey meat” he purchased smelled and tasted strange. This incident is another misstep by Walmart of not familiarizing itself with its own meat suppliers. Donkey meat is a regional delicacy of the Shandong province.
The company will launch an investigation with industry and local agencies in the eastern Shandong province.
China has a $1 trillion grocery market and, at nearly 400 stores nationwide, Walmart could lose out on some of that market. Marketing experts predict that the fox meat scandal will deal a blow to Walmart’s market share because of declined consumer trust. According to China Market Research Group (CMR), Walmart’s Chinese market share has already decreased from 7.5 percent to 5.2 percent since 2011.
“This is another hit on Wal-Mart’s brand, meaning wealthy shoppers will start to lose the trust they had before,” said CMR managing director Shaun Rein.
The Christian Science Monitor reported that food processing companies selling to Walmart cut the product with fox meat for a greater yield. However, fox meat is considered a trash meat because of its terrible smell and taste and is usually a byproduct from companies that harvest fox pelts.
Quartz reported that there has been a growing Chinese market for scent-masking products, more specifically fox meat. Guangzhou Guibao Food Company touts its “Fish-Smell Removal King” product. “Getting rid of the fishy smell of fox meat is one of the hardest tasks in the world!” said Guibao. “With the ‘Fish-Smell Removal King’ product, fox meat can now gain people’s acceptance as a cuisine!” Fox meat can be harmful to human health because of a chance of carrying harmful parasites.
If one company is packaging fox meat, there could be many more that are doing the same thing, possibly companies in partnership with Walmart.
A veteran of food safety controversy in China, Walmart was found to have mislabelled pork products in some of its Chinese stores. In 2011, Walmart was labelling and selling regular pork as organic pork. Upon the finding, the Chongqing government ordered Walmart to shut down 13 stores for 15 days and pay a $575,000 fine. The “organic” pork scandal marked the 21st punishment against Walmart for false advertising and selling subpar or expired food.
The following year saw more severe scandals. The Beijing Food Safety Administration (BFSA) said Walmart sold sesame oil and squid containing dangerous amounts of cancer-causing chemicals. According to the BFSA, the sesame oil contained high amounts of benzopyrene, and the squid was high in cadmium.
In high amounts, benzopyrene can cause skin rash and irritation, alter skin color, and cause skin, lung, and bladder cancer. Cadmium, used for industrial purposes like nickel plating and batteries, possesses dangerous effects also. Cadmium poisoning can result in vomiting, lung inflammation, and anemia.
In early 2012, in the City of Dazhou, Walmart was accused of selling pork ribs from diseased pigs. This finding was a result of a routine inspection when inspectors discovered the tainted meat in Walmart’s cold storage facility.
Last October, Walmart saw more food controversy among its American-based pork supplier, Rosewood Farms. Mercy for Animals, an animal rights group, released a video documenting the visceral mistreatment of pigs at its Pipestone, MN-based plant. The video showed plant employees punching and shoving adult pigs and slamming piglets head-first into the floor by the hind legs. The Pipestone County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant on the company for animal abuse.