Fast food mega-chain McDonald's Corp. and supermarket giant Carrefour SA issued apologies Friday after being accused by state-owned China Central Television of selling expired or mislabeled chicken.
In an investigation that aired Thursday, CCTV said McDonald's Sanlitun restaurant in Beijing was selling chicken wings an hour and a half after they were cooked, even though company rules set the sell-by limit at 30 minutes.
The same television report said that French chain Carrefour labeled some chicken meat with the incorrect production date and also sold standard chicken as the more expensive free-range variety.
In a statement, McDonald's said the expired chicken incident was an "isolated" case that "does not in any way reflect McDonald's employees and our operations."
The Oak Brook, Ill., company said it is working with Chinese officials and is "already in the process of investigating the events to ensure the adherence to our standards across all restaurants."
China's State Food and Drug Administration demanded an apology from McDonald's and ordered a health investigation into the incident – which an official statement said would be "dealt with severely."
Regulators have also asked McDonald's to learn a lesson from the scandal and take corrective steps to prevent future problems.
In a statement on its Chinese site, Carrefour said it would boost training efforts and ensure that consumer safeguards were in place.
Food safety and quality is of high concern in China, a market that has been a hot target for foreign expansion for foreign fast food companies such as McDonald's as well as KFC owner Yum. But the country's consumers have also been on high alert after recent episodes involving unexpected chemicals and steroids mixed into food, glowing blue pork, fake eggs and more.