Monday, February 1, 2016

U.S. manager jailed over food safety scandal in China

The manager of a plant in China owned by a company in Ohio has been sentenced to three years in prison over a spectacular food-safety scandal that made headlines in 2014.

The court has also fined fined two China-based units of the OSI Group [OSIGP.UL] up to 2.4 million yuan ($364,875 US) and handed prison sentences to 10 of its employees over allegations it reused returned food products to avoid losses.

OSI supplied McDonald's Corp, and Yum Brands Inc. which owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell in China.

The Shanghai Jiading People's Court said in a statement on Monday that Yang Liqun, a general manager at OSI China, would be sentenced to three years in prison and deported. He is an Australian citizen.

OSI has criticized the handling of its case by the local food regulator - a rare act in China, where foreign firms steer clear of any public criticism of the authorities.

It said on Monday that the verdict, which follows a December trial behind closed doors, was unjust.
"The verdict is inconsistent with the facts and evidence that were presented in the court proceedings," it said in a statement. "As such, OSI is forced to consider an appeal through all legal channels in order to eventually be granted a just, evidence‐based verdict as merited by the facts of the case."

The court statement said Yang and other workers at OSI's China units had reused products from returned or canceled orders, meaning some unapproved products had entered the market.

Nine other people in the case would be given shorter jail terms and would have to pay fines. Four of the nine would have their jail sentences suspended, it said.

The situation at the plant came to light when whistleblowers took vidoes to authorities.