CHINA: Wal-Mart pledges investment in China food safety

By Michelle Russell | 13 May 2013

Wal-Mart has been piloting the lab over the last six months in 33 stores across Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Dongguan

Wal-Mart has been piloting the lab over the last six months in 33 stores across Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Dongguan

US retail giant Wal-Mart Stores is to invest CNY100m (US$16.3m) over three years to improve food safety in China.

Part of the investment, announced over the weekend, will be used to expand a mobile food-inspection lab programme in the country to cover 70 stores in Guangdong Province on the South China Sea coast.

The food lab programme is a measure designed to process food testing in stores "more quickly, more flexibly and more professionally", Wal-Mart said. Equipped with professional facilities and four third-party technicians, each lab has an investment of around CNY2m per year.

Wal-Mart has been piloting the lab over the last six months in 33 stores across Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Dongguan. Its official debut will now see the lab also cover more than 70 stores in the Guangdong Province. Wal-Mart said it is considering bringing another mobile lab to eastern China.

In addition to the lab investment, the retailer will also increase supplier training, improve store standards, recruit more food-safety experts and expand its fresh-food distribution, it said.

"Food safety management is a systematic work that needs constant innovation and improvement," said Rob Chester, chief compliance officer for Wal-Mart's Chinese operations, said. 

"Walmart China's investment of CNY100m shows that the importance the company attaches to and its determination in food safety. We hope we are able to guarantee better food safety and provide commodities at higher quality to our customers through continuous effort."

Wal-Mart will be looking to bolster its image in China after a series of food-related incidents in recent years.

In October 2011, police reportedly arrested Wal-Mart workers in Chongqing amid a probe of allegations the retailer mislabelled ordinary pork as organic. At the same time, a separate report claimed a Wal-Mart store in Beijing was found to be selling sesame oil with carcinogenic ingredients, and fresh squid with "too much heavy metal".

In June last year the retailer also removed a number of products from its shelves in the country following accusations it was selling "sub-standard" food. The grocer was accused by The Animal Husbandry and Foodstuff Bureau of selling pork sourced from "diseased pigs".

Sectors: Emerging markets, Food safety, Retail

Companies: Wal-Mart Stores

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