A MCDONALD'S restaurant in Beijing was closed for business yesterday and its other outlets across the country put under strict scrutiny for food safety loopholes as ordered by China's food watchdog after state TV exposed dirty tricks at the Beijing outlet.

McDonald's was among a number of companies, including Carrefour and China Telecom, whose food and management irregularities were highlighted on a China Central Television program on Thursday, China's Consumer Rights Day.

The McDonald's Sanlitun outlet in the Chinese capital sold chicken wings 90 minutes after they were cooked, in contravention of the company's 30-minute rule, according to footage broadcast by CCTV. Store staff were also seen changing expiry dates and picking up raw beef that had fallen on the ground and putting it back in its pack.

In a statement issued yesterday, McDonald's said: "Though it is an isolated case ... we''ll immediately investigate the restaurant and mete out serious punishment."

The scandal touched a nerve with Chinese consumers after a series of recent food safety scandals, including pork laced with chemicals and the use of swill oil by some restaurants.

McDonald's China officials were "invited" for a talk by the State Food and Drug Administration, Xinhua news agency reported yesterday, and urged to apologize to consumers and conduct a strict overhaul of food safety measures at its restaurants.

McDonald's China issued the requested apology, saying it would adjust its operations, enhance management and strictly implement food safety standards to safeguard consumers' health.

It said it welcomes the supervision of more consumers, media and relevant government organs. It was working with government departments in investigating the issue and had required all its 1,400 restaurants to carry out inspections and strengthen supervision to prevent similar cases in the future.

The McDonald's story triggered an outcry online with many people wondering how improvements could be made unless the company changed the way it paid bonuses to staff.

One comment was: "I don't think the company could completely change as long as it keeps linking employees' bonuses with restaurant profits."

On the CCTV program, a worker at the Beijing branch said any food that was wasted added to costs and affected their bonuses. "Only when you gain profits, you can share the bonus," the worker told CCTV.

There was support for McDonald's from some online posters.

One said: "I don't believe such kind of behavior is an isolated case in McDonald's restaurants, or in other Chinese restaurants. As least McDonald's has internal controls and their food is less dangerous than those chemical-linked infant milk, recycled oil and possibly others that have not been discovered."

In response to the program's segment on Carrefour, where a supermarket in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan Province, was found to be selling the same chicken at different prices, Carrefour's Zhengzhou management said yesterday it had suspended several people, including an executive in charge of the raw meat and poultry counter at the Huayuan store.

"We will further enhance the training and take measures to earnestly implement the relevant provisions to safeguard the interests of consumers," said a statement on the website of Carrefour's China unit.

China Telecom, which had been accused of aiding spam messages to mobile phones, said it was launching an investigation into the claims.

The TV program said that some China Telecom subsidiaries had offered a service which allowed advertising companies to bypass other carriers' spam filters.

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