SHANGHAI -- U.S. fast-food chain Burger King has suspended operations at a number of its outlets in eastern China and is looking into allegations that it served expired food to customers.
An expose airing the accusations was shown on state-owned CCTV's annual "315 Night Show" dealing with consumer rights.
The show has been shown on CCTV every year on March 15, Consumer Rights Day, since 1991. This year's program, which was postponed to Thursday due to the pandemic, is widely watched as it puts businesses, including well-known foreign ones, under the microscope.
In addition to Burger King, another high-profile U.S. company that came under fire in this year's program was automaker General Motors, which was criticized for a faulty transmission in one of its models. A food processor in the eastern province of Shandong, meanwhile, was accused of using illegal pesticides in its sea cucumber breeding business.
Alibaba Group Holding, Apple and Starbucks have been targets of the "315 Night Show" in previous years, drawing apologies from those accused of misbehaving. The censure of Burger King and GM, the only foreign companies named this year, takes place against a backdrop of rising tensions between China and the U.S.
Following the broadcast, Burger King China issued an apology and promised to investigate.
Burger King restaurants in eastern China's Jiangxi Province were said to have served expired burgers and chicken nuggets by replacing labels, under instructions from shop managers. "The actions by these outlets seriously departed from our corporate philosophy of 'The customer is the king'," Burger King said a statement shortly after the broadcast.
The program drew a strong reaction on social media, with users questioning the chain's food safety practices, an issue that has been a nationwide concern as China works to control the spread of the novel coronavirus. "You didn't do anything until you were exposed," said one user on the Weibo microblog.
Burger King's China unit is licensed under Restaurant Brands International and managed by TAB Food Investments, a Turkish conglomerate that also runs the chain in Turkey. It has more than 1,300 outlets in 150 cities in China and has been operating in the country since 2012, according to the company's website.