TOKYO (KRON/AP) — McDonald’s Corp. is having an unsavory week after reports that restaurants in Venezuela have run out of french fries and a human tooth turned up in their food in Japan.
Restaurant officials in Japan bowed deeply Wednesday to apologize after the tooth, plastic pieces and other objects were found in the burger chain’s food, highlighting how consumers here are both loving and hating the fast-food eatery.
The hubbub over objects turning up in the food comes on the heels of a different kind of problem at the popular chain — a lack of fries, stemming from a shortage set off by labor disruptions on the U.S. West Coast. Last year, McDonald’s in China and Japan along with other fast-food brands were hit by a scandal over expired meat from a Chinese supplier.
In the recent cases, a child’s mouth was injured by a piece of plastic in an ice cream sundae in December. The fragment had fallen into the dispenser while being assembled, according to McDonald’s.
In another case, a customer who bought a Big Mac set in August last year found a tooth in the fries. McDonald’s said none of its employees at the outlet or its suppliers had lost a tooth, and there were no signs the tooth had been fried. It was still investigating how the tooth and plastic got in the food.
“To make such cases zero is our goal,” said Takehiko Aoki, a senior executive. “We are doing our utmost to tackle them, one by one.”
Aoki denied such cases highlighted an overall quality-control problem and called them “isolated” cases. He acknowledged there were other cases, including metal in a pancake and plastic in a McMuffin, but declined to give a tally of the incidents.
He said it was possible that outsiders had planted the tooth and other items.
In two other cases, pieces of plastic were found in the Chicken McNuggets, delivered from a plant in Thailand. One was blue, and so it could have fallen in during production, but the other was clear, a type not used at McDonald’s, officials said.
“I will eat McNuggets. I will feed McNuggets to my children. I have no doubts,” said Aoki.
McDonald’s is popular in Japan, running more than 3,000 restaurants.
Over the years, it has survived “mad cow” scares and more general health worries about high calories. Orders for fries were limited last year to small servings because of a potato shortage. Large fries came back Monday.
Venezuela’s more than 100 McDonald’s franchises have run out of potatoes and are now serving alternatives like deep-fried arepa flatbreads or yuca, a starchy staple of traditional South American cooking.
McDonald’s is blaming a contract dispute with West Coast dock workers for halting the export of frozen fries to the country. The dispute also caused several days of French fry rationing in Japan last month. But Sonia Ruseler, an Argentina-based spokeswoman for Arcos Dorados, which runs McDonald’s restaurants in Latin America, declined to say Tuesday why Venezuela’s neighbors are not suffering from similar scarcity.
Accustomed to shortages of their favorite foods, and equally in the habit of grumbling about the government as they walk away empty-handed, many Venezuelans assume the embattled socialist administration is to blame.
“It’s because of the situation here; it’s a total debacle,” said Maria Guerreiro, who huffed out of a Caracas McDonald’s with her family when she found out they were serving only fries made of yuca, which is also known as cassava. Her daughter won’t eat the super-starchy root, she said, and they’d come for the sole purpose of treating the two-year-old to a Happy Meal.
Ruseler said the corporation is working to resolve the shortages, and in the meantime, “will continue to give our clients the McDonald’s experience, offering 100 percent Venezuelan options.”
Rival Burger King, meanwhile, used sly social media posts Tuesday to remind Venezuelans that some fast food chains are still offering American-style fries.
(Copyright 2015, KRON 4 and AP, All rights reserved.)