THURSDAY 2 JAN 2014 12:32 PM


In March 2013, British supermarkets were under siege. A stampede of angry consumers and commenters attacked individual chains for their inattention to standards in their supply chains. The horsemeat scandal left some a bit worse for wear, but others, like Tesco, with communications wins under their belts.

Today, Wal-Mart in China has recalled a donkey meat product after inspections revealed the presence of fox DNA. This comes a year or so after the supermarket chain won seven of the top awards for food safety in China at the 2012 Outstanding Contribution in Food Safety & Public Health awards. Wal-Mart’s UK arm ASDA recalled a number of products during the horsemeat scandal last year.

One of the main results of the British crisis was to reinforce the need for more intensive supply chain management and communications. Wal-Mart’s China chief reiterates that focus in the wake of this latest crisis. President and CEO of Wal-Mart China Greg Foran says, “We are deeply sorry for this whole affair. It is a deep lesson (for us) that we need to continue to increase investment in supplier management.”

Hubert Grealish, food and drink expert from MPERA says, "Wal-Mart faces a big challenge in China, in ensuring it can adhere to the required levels of quality, for its vast stocks and product lines, throughout the great country and it's 400 odd stores. It's an almost an impossible task however the imperative here is to work doubly hard to win and then retain the confidence of the emerging middle classes they seek to attract.  Unlike the established 'all American' brand at home in then US, there is far less heritage and even less loyalty for the the brand to rely on in the Chinese region. In that regard I'm sure Wal-Mart will be very mindful of all the weakest links and supply quality issues as it drafts in so many varied producers and wares."

However, this is not Wal-Mart’s first problem of the sort in China. In 2011, it was fined for price manipulation and for selling duck meat past it expiry date. Wal-Mart, which has over 400 stores in China, risks losing customer trust in the nation’s $1 trillion food market.