Videos showing two Starbucks shops in Wuxi, China using expired ingredients and violating sanitary standards went viral on social media. The American coffee chain said it was “deeply shocked” and immediately closed both outlets pending an investigation, South China Morning Post reported on Dec. 14.
The videos were taken by undercover reporters posing as a staff member claiming to show expired cocoa liquid, matcha liquid, and cream used in drinks served to customers. These videos were then published by the State-backed newspaper Beijing News on Monday following an article explaining the scandal.
One of these videos showed an employee removing an expiry date on a bottle of chocolate chips and replacing it with a new label extending the shelf life by one week.
Also, in this video, a cake from the previous day was sold, and a bin was cleaned with a towel intended for tables.
According to an employee appearing in the video, the store would be charged for any wasted expired food, which would lower its profits.
The two Starbucks shops involved in this scandal are Zhenze Road and Changxing Building stores. A regular customer to the latter, whose surname was Hua, said she often had stomach aches after drinking coffee from the chain since she began working in a nearby office building last month.
“I originally trusted these chain brands and thought they would not have safety issues. But this incident disappointed consumers,” she said.
The Starbucks chain has 5,400 shops in China.
A Starbucks coffee shop in the southern city of Shenzhen was fined for similar food safety problems last month; and another shop in the central province of Hubei was also fined in July 2019, according to Tianyan Check, an app providing company information.
“We take what was reported by local media very seriously, and have immediately closed the two stores in question to conduct a thorough investigation,” a Starbucks statement said after the emergence of this food safety scandal.
“Since entering the Chinese mainland market 22 years ago, we have been committed to implementing strict food safety standards and adopting a ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards food safety issues. We welcome the continued supervision of members of the media and the public.”
Food safety scandals have become the norm in China for decades. Earlier this year, NTD reported that a consumer spotted a cigarette butt in a bowl of noodles from the brand of China’s internet celebrity Li Ziqi.
In 2016, Reuters reported that China discovered up to half a million illegal food safety violations in just nine months.
In recent years, the cases have ranged from rice contaminated with heavy metals, the use of recycled “gutter oil” in restaurants, to the sale of baby formula containing deadly amounts of the industrial chemical melamine, Reuters further explained.