Exclusive: China meat supplier faced claims last year over unethical work practices

Thu Jul 24, 2014 10:41pm EDT
 
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By Kazunori Takada

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Shanghai Husi Food, the U.S.-owned Chinese food supplier at the center of a meat safety scandal, won a court case earlier this year against a former quality control officer whose claims included that he was made to forge meat production dates.

Wang Donglai, who worked at Shanghai Husi Food from 2007 to 2013, sought around 38,000 yuan ($6,100) in compensation for damage to his health from exposure to chlorine used as a cleaning agent by the meat processor. He also sought to terminate his contract at Shanghai Husi, claiming he was forced to work overtime and made to do "unethical work" that violated food safety laws, court documents showed.

At his hearing last October, Wang said he was unwilling to illegally forge dates at the plant, adding that he repeatedly urged his employer to change a practice which he said violated food safety laws and hurt consumer interests, according to court documents seen by Reuters. He said Shanghai Husi, which is owned by privately-held Illinois-based OSI Group, ignored his pleas.

Wang could not be reached for comment. His lawyer in the case declined to comment.

The Shanghai Jiading District Court ruled against Wang in January, saying his health was normal based on records provided by his employer. The judge dismissed Wang's claims about forced overtime, and dismissed the claims over forged production dates due to lack of evidence, the court papers showed.

Xia Yugang, a lawyer who represented Shanghai Husi in the case, said it was an individual labor dispute rather than a food safety issue. Xia, who no longer represents Shanghai Husi, said he did not know if the company ever followed up on Wang's allegations. "I believe Husi has sufficiently learned its lesson (from the current scandal) and if it wants to survive it certainly needs to improve its standards," he told Reuters.

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Security guards stand inside the Husi Food factory in Shanghai July 23, 2014.   REUTERS/Aly Song