CHINA – Market regulators in eight Chinese cities have carried out inspections of Starbucks shops after food safety issues were found at two outlets in the eastern Chinese city of Wuxi.

The checks followed a newspaper report by two Beijing News reporters who carried out undercover investigations from late October to mid-November, that alleged the two outlets in Wuxi had used expired ingredients in their drinks.

A video posted on Chinese social media platform, Weibo, showed a Starbucks employee changing an expiration date sticker on a chocolate sauce bottle.

The recent food scandal was uncovered by two reporters from The Beijing News, who carried out undercover investigations at two Starbucks shops in Wuxi from late October to mid-November.

The Suzhou market supervision bureau explained that they have inspected 226 Starbucks outlets in the city and identified 18 issues, including uncovered trash bins, Starbucks employees working without face masks, and irregularities in the sales and purchase records.

The authorities have closed the two stores for further investigation and rectification within a stipulated time frame.

According to some local media reports, officials have also conducted food safety checks at Starbucks stores in Shanghai, Nanjing, Changsha, Wuxi, Hefei and Yinchuan.

However, the city authorities who carried out checks in Shanghai and Hefei said that they could not identify any food safety-related issues at the Starbucks stores they visited. Currently, Starbucks operates more than 5,000 stores across China, which is said to be its second-biggest market, following the U.S.

A day after the US coffee chain was exposed for using expired ingredients in its drinks, a second Chinese city found food safety issues at a local Starbucks branch.

The company has pledged to launch self-inspection on food safety at all its stores in the mainland and carry out safety training for the employees.

 “We have confirmed that the employees of the two Wuxi stores have violated food safety standards. We sincerely apologize to all Starbucks customers,” the company said in a statement on its official Weibo account.

It has also vowed to increase the frequency and scale of third-party investigations, strengthen the internal reporting channels for food safety problems and explore more technical means to reduce the interference of human operation factors on quality.

Previous warnings unheeded

However, prior to this incident, Starbucks had received two warnings and slapped with a fine for selling expired food.

In April, a branch in Ningbo, East China’s Zhejiang Province was fined 10,000 yuan (US$1,572) for selling expired food. As reported by Nanfang Metropolis Daily, in November, one of its branches in Shenzhen, South China’s Guangdong Province was warned by local market supervision authorities for keeping expired moon cakes in the food cabinet.

Earlier this month, Starbucks unveiled its plan to expand its footprint in Brazil by opening eight new stores in the country. The new stores will be opened by SouthRock, a licensed operator of Starbucks stores in Brazil.

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