China’s official news agency Xinhua reports 13 Wal-Mart stores were closed for 15 days and fined 2.69 million yuan (421,894.58 U.S. dollars) for selling ordinary pork labelled as “organic pork”.
But in addition to store closures and fines, some of Wal-Mart’s employees have actually been detained by Chinese authorities with the Chongqing Public Security Bureau, forcing Wal-Mart to send a task force to help resolve what is now a full-scale investigation.
“It is not an isolated case, but a reflection of the company’s dysfunctional management mechanism,” said Zuo Yong, an administration official in charge of supervision and management of food distribution.
“The Wal-Mart stores in Chongqing have once and again violated laws and regulations and infringed upon the rights of consumers,” Zuo said.
Xinhua reports that in March, Wal-Mart was fined after it was found to be selling expired duck meat in a store in Chongqing. Wal-Mart has been punished by the local government 21 times since 2006 for false advertising and selling expired and substandard food.
Tang Chuan, a law enforcement official from the Chongqing Administration of Industry and Commerce, said government supervision has often been ignored by Wal-Mart, and Zuo, the Chinese offical in charge of food distribution claims Wal-mart values profit ahead of the interests of consumers.
“The company was quick to apologize after the incidents happened, but it has not made efforts to improve its management in accordance,” Tang said.
According to the BBC, in February, China’s National Development and Reform Commission accused Wal-Mart, and its French rival Carrefour, of manipulating prices at 19 stores. Customers complained the companies had overcharged them on promotional items.
The Chongqing Public Security Bureau’s harsh response against Wal-Mart is in part due to a previous pork scandal motivating frustrated and fearful Chinese consumers to deliberately seek out and buy Wal-Mart’s “organic” pork.
Earlier in the year, China’s Central Television reported that one of the country’s largest meat processors had bought pigs fed with the illegal additive clenbuterol.
The drug clenbuterol helps produce leaner meat but can be dangerous to people with heart conditions. And in 2009, dozens of people became sick after eating clenbuterol tainted pork.
The BBC notes China is one of Wal-Mart’s fastest growing markets. Wal-Mart has 344 stores in the China, with 53 opened in the last year.