Wal-Mart to focus on food safety in China: Asia chief

Sat Nov 8, 2014 9:17pm EST
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By Matthew Miller

BEIJING (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N: Quote) is focusing on food safety as the world's largest retailer aims to boost profitability of its more than 400 stores in China, Wal-Mart Asia chief executive Scott Price told Reuters.

Food safety is a highly emotive issue in China where there have been numerous scandals from photos of food oil being scooped from drains to tales of phoney eggs and melamine-tainted milk powder.

"We play an important role in China delivering food safety and quality products to our customers," Price said on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit, which begins on Sunday. "It's a differentiator."

Wal-Mart came under fire in Chinese media earlier in the year after a supplier's donkey meat product was found to contain fox meat.

In 2011 Chinese authorities accused Wal-Mart of selling expired duck meat, and it was forced to shut down stores in Chongqing after they were accused of labelling non-organic pork as organic and selling it at a higher price.

Price was named on Tuesday the head of the retailer's Asia Pacific business, in a move aimed at reviving Wal-Mart's slowing growth amid stiff competition in the region.

In Japan, the company said in October it would close 30 underperforming stores to scale back.

In India, Wal-Mart last year ended a six-year partnership with Bharti Enterprises Pvt and started to run wholesale stores instead of its common retail ones.   Continued...

A customer shops at a Wal-Mart store in Beijing, February 18, 2014. Wal-Mart Stores Inc, famed for its low prices, has stumbled in the one major market where consumers say price is less of a driver in their buying decisions: China.  REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon