SmSh is posting ongoing updates related to this story. You can read those after the jump.
Some troubling allegations have surfaced in Chinese-language media concerning the operations of one of Shanghai's more popular bakery spots, Farine, an offshoot of well-regarded French restaurant Franck.
According to the report from Xinmin, Farine on Wukang Lu has been suspended over the use of expired ingredients and other issues. All bread products made with suspect ingredients — expired flour in particular — were destroyed on site and samples have been brought back for further investigation. More on the saga after the jump.
On March 20, a Weibo user who claims to be the ex-employee of Farine reported the shop "has mold on their canvas and cleans the mold using dirty water. There were rats running (in the kitchen) at night. The operation room has hygiene problems everywhere."
The content was accompanied by a footage of their kitchen, shot over a four month period during the time while the employee was working there.
The former employee accuses the operation of having a long-term policy in using expired flour to make bread. After the fact was reported to Shanghai Food and Drug administration, 578 bags of expired flour were seized from the busines. According to the former employee, Farine stores over 2000 bags of expired flour in a location only the management team knows the whereabouts of.
Currently, all four chains have taken down related items and destroyed them under the supervision of law enforcement officers. Farine at IFC and Xintiandi are still running.
The word from Farine:
There has been allegations made against the bakery with regards to the raw ingredients we use. We take this allegations very seriously and we are also working closely with the Shanghai authorities to resolve this matter. Stores have been closed to facilitate and fasten authorities inspections. Please trust that we are committed to insure the best service to our customers. We look forward to updating our valued customers in a transparent manner. For now, we are fully comitted to work with the FDA to clarify the situation, so we must wait for their report statement before we can comment furthemore.
All Farine outlets have been shut down until further notice.
In their latest interview posted today, Chinese-language media platform Xinmin speaks with the Farine whistle-blower (hehe) and he states that the mold issue at the bakery caught his attention in November last year. He goes on to state that when he tried to report the situation to the manager of the back kitchen, he was told he might lose his job if he continued to follow up on the problem. He then decided to record video in secret to document the these hygiene issues. As for choosing to go public now, he waited until new Shanghai food safety regulations took affect (March 20) to report to the FDA. He continues in the interview to state that after seeing Farine continue to attract customers even after they were investigated, he decided to break the news online to let more people know about it.
He closes by stating that he's received a threatening call for his actions, but doesn’t regret what he did.
Eight people involved in the food safety scandal were taken to the police after FDA's investigation. According to Xinmin, If a crime is constituted, they will be held criminally responsible.
Chief of Shanghai FDA Yan Zuqiang says in the interview: "If an enterprise wants to do bad things, there must be concealment. To avoid supervision, he registered multiple companies, disguising his criminal facts using different approaches." So far, all four stores, one factory, and one office building have been seized.
It seems that the local authorities already made up their mind about making an example out of Farine with the recent Shanghai Food Safety regulation.
Company spokespeople have confirmed that Franck Bistrot, FarWest, Grains, WIYF and Rachel's have all been closed down until further notice, to ensure employees and customers aren't hassled by press and photographers. They also confirmed that Franck was not the foreigner taken into custody mentioned in this article from Shanghai Daily.
Farine has just released an official statement on their WeChat channel. They confirm, and apologize for, using expired flour, thank the Shanghai authorities for their "fast and efficient reaction," pledging to "respect the current investigation," and outline steps they'll take in response to the situation, including expanding their quality control measures, with exact details to be communicated later. There aren't any concrete details regarding the investigation. Here's the part relating to the expired flour;
We ship our flour from France and stock it in our warehouse in Shanghai. Due to the delay of Min Hang central kitchen opening, our central flour stock expiry date has exceeded by a few months. We did use a small part of this stock. The use of this small part was based on best used before date, without realizing that China applies a strict earlier expiry date. This is clearly a mistake even though we obtain lab test from supplier to prove absolute safety of using this flour.
You can read the statement in its entirety here.