All locations of the popular Shanghai bakery Farine have been shut down by authorities following troubling allegations from an ex-employee that the bakery regularly used expired and even moldy flour to make its bread.
On Monday, the former employee went public with his allegations by posting them onto Weibo, claiming that while he had worked at Farine’s flagship Wukang Lu shop, the bakery had a policy of using expired flour in making its premium bread products. In the scandalous post, he even mentioned Farine founder French expat Franck Pécol by name. The “whistleblower” also alleged that the bakery’s kitchen was plagued with hygiene problems, including mold and rats that frolicked across the floor each night.
Along with his post, the ex-employee also included a series of videos that he had secretly filmed inside the kitchen while he worked at the shop. One of these videos shows a bag of flower with an expiration date of December 2016.
The Weibo user’s report quickly launched an investigation by the Shanghai Food and Drug administration. All four Farine locations in Shanghai have been shut down by authorities. Bread products at the shops have been destroyed with samples taken back for further investigation and testing.
Authorities also paid a visit to Farine’s headquarters in Minhang District — which includes their newly opened factory and lab — where they seized 578 bags of expired imported flour. Shanghai Daily reports that one pack of imported rye flour had an expiration date of November 29th, 2016.
Eight senior managers have been taken away in connection with the ongoing investigation, Shanghai’s Xinmin Evening News reported. Yan Zuqiang, the head of the Shanghai Food and Drug association, is quoted as saying that if the company is proved guilty of using expired ingredients in its baked goods, they will be held criminally liable.
Marketing itself as using high-quality wheat flours imported in from France, Farine has become one of Shanghai’s most popular bakeries with a large following among locals and expats alike. Franck Pécol also has a hand in other widely popular brands in Shanghai, including the WIYF ice cream counter and the well-respected Franck bistro (his namesake restaurant).
Farine has responded to the developing scandal with the following statement:
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.
Meanwhile, Farine has completely disappeared from the popular Chinese food review app Dianping with a search for its name turning up no results.
[Images via Xinmin / Shanghai Daily]
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