Expired School Meals Spark Probe of U.K. Food Giant in China

(Bloomberg) -- U.K.-based Compass Group Plc is under an official investigation in Shanghai over suspected expired meals provided to some of the city’s international schools.

In the latest food scandal to hit the country, the Shanghai government has ordered three schools, including Shanghai SMIC Private School, to suspend catering services provided by Shanghai Eurest Food Technologies Service immediately after finding expired food and false labels on food items at their kitchens.

Shanghai Eurest, a unit of the British food giant, is being probed by city authorities, and Shanghai’s education bureau has ordered the principal of Shanghai SMIC Private School to be removed and be investigated, the Shanghai Municipal Food and Drug Administration said in a statement on Tuesday.

In addition, the authorities have kicked off a food-safety inspection of all schools in China’s most internationalized city, the statement said.

Safety Scares

China, the world’s fastest-growing major economy, has been hit by a string of food and safety scares over the last decade.

Earlier this month, the Chinese government slapped a 9.1 billion yuan ($1.3 billion) penalty on Changsheng Bio-technology Co. after finding the company produced and sold low-quality vaccines for infants and to have fabricated production and inspection data on a rabies vaccine. About a decade ago, melamine-tainted milk killed at least six infants and sickened tens of thousands in China in a major scandal that made international headlines.

In a statement posted on its Chinese website, Compass said it "sincerely apologizes and blames itself for the concern caused to members of the public," and is cooperating with the government investigation and taking steps to improve its service.

Shanghai SMIC Private School said in a school notice circulated to parents on Saturday that it has suspended Shanghai Eurest after parents found expired food and "suspicious" manufacturing labels on food items in the school kitchen.

According to a notice sent by Shanghai American School to its students’ parents, the Shanghai Education Commission has mandated that the heads of each international school in Shanghai personally lead a full review of food safety measures and inspect each kitchen on their respective campuses.

Shanghai American School has done so, and so far is not suspending Compass as a caterer, according to the notice.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Charlie Zhu in Shanghai at qzhu46@bloomberg.net;Lulu Shen in Shanghai at lshen37@bloomberg.net

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With assistance from Editorial Board