Excessive amounts of antibiotics were found in eight batches of raw chicken samples taken from KFC supplier Shandong Liuhe Group from 2010 to 2011, the Shanghai Food Safety Office said in a statement on Thursday.
In 2005, the Shanghai Institute for Food and Drug Control signed a contract with the China division of Yum Brands in Shanghai, which owns KFC, to provide third-party testing services for its raw materials and semi-finished products, the statement said.
From 2010 to 2011, a total of 19 batches of raw chicken samples from the Liuhe Group were tested, and eight of them were found to contain excessive amounts of antibiotics. All the testing reports were sent to Yum Brands.
In an e-mail reply to China Daily, KFC said it strictly implements the country's regulations regarding raw material purchases, and has evaluated the qualification of suppliers, and sent samples to qualified third-party bodies for testing.
KFC's e-mail added that in 2010, excessive amounts of antibiotics were found in raw chicken supplied by the Liuhe Group and Yingtai Co, and that KFC sent back the raw chicken to the suppliers and required them to rectify the situation.
In 2011, KFC withdrew the qualification of Liuhe's Linyi factory to supply raw chicken. In 2012, considering the safety risk, KFC also terminated the supply contract with the Liuhe Group, it said.
The statement of the Shanghai Food Safety Office comes after China Central Television reported earlier this week that some chicken farms in Shandong province feed the birds with excessive amounts of antibiotics to reduce their death rate and shorten their growing period.
Animal nutrition experts said that chemical compound medicines, most antibiotics and hormones, are banned from being fed to stock and poultry.
The experts added that some chickens are fed large doses of antibiotics because many Chinese farmers don't have the money or want to spend the money to raise the birds in larger and cleaner pens.
The CCTV report said that the chickens—which had inferior health conditions and reached full growth within about 40 days—were sold to the Liuhe Group and Yingtai Co, both KFC suppliers.
After the CCTV report triggered public concern over the safety of the birds supplied to KFC, the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration carried out tests on Tuesday after taking 32 samples of raw chicken products from a logistics center belonging to Yum Brands in Shanghai. The results of the tests are not known yet.
Severe punishments will be handed out if any violation of food safety laws is found, the Shanghai Food Safety Office said.
This year, Yum Brands sent a total of 283 batches of samples for test, which didn't include the products from Liuhe, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
The administration's probe revealed that the logistics center's purchase records suggest that no purchases were made from Liuhe after May.
"We will investigate whether Yum Brands took measures according to the food safety laws when they received the report on unqualified chicken," said Gu Zhenhua, deputy director of the Shanghai Food Safety Office.
"Further investigations will also be made on the tests body (Shanghai Institute for Food and Drug Control), and we will implement the most strict accountability procedures on it," he said.
Toxicologist Lu Dun said that the incident exposed some flaws in the system. "For the testing body, it's hard to find out how the clients will deal with the chickens after the test results are unveiled," Lu said.