The popular Shanghai bakery Farine has issued an official statement responding to the scandal that is currently rocking the city’s food and beverage world after an ex-employee accused the beloved brand of using expired and even moldy flour to make its premium bread products.
In a statement released on the bakery’s WeChat account on Friday night, Farine apologized to its “friends and customers” for any inconveniences caused by its shops being suddenly suddenly closed down, and thanked Shanghai authorities for their “fast and effective reaction,” adding that “we fully respect their concern, and we do respect the current investigation.”
After noting that the Franck Group has been operating in Shanghai for 10 years without any major health violations, Farine finally gave its own account of the developing scandal, admitting to using expired flour:
About the flour we use at Farine. We ship our flour from France and stock in our warehouse in Shanghai. Due to the delay of Min Hang central kitchen opening, our current 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 absolutely safety of using this flour. We sincerely apologize for that and decide to change our internal control process to be in full compliance of Chinese regulations.
The statement continues by announcing that a new flour shipment is scheduled to arrive in Shanghai in April, and in the meantime they plan to take four steps:
1) We will fully cooperate / work with the authorities in order to esnure that our production comply with all FDA regulations in the future.
2) Strengthen supplier and quality control: increase the current team from 2 to 4 people, review and upgrade suppliers list and design a new internal control process to be communication later.
3) Disclose in total transparency our work process in the kitchen and welcome all public supervision.
4) Insure more traceability of the stock and process of removal of products that may cause problems.
While the scandal is blowing up in Shanghai, Farine founder Franck Pécol is back in France. A WeChat post alleges that Pécol skipped town the day after Shanghai authorities began to investigate Farine, and that he has been out of contact since that time. However, Pécol spoke to That’s over the phone on Thursday, claiming that he was on a previously planned trip.
On Monday, a former employee went public with his allegations against Farine 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 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.
The Weibo user’s explosive report quickly launched an investigation by the Shanghai Food and Drug administration. All four Farine locations in Shanghai were shut down by authorities on Thursday. Bread products at the shops were destroyed with samples taken back for further investigation and testing. Meanwhile, 578 bags of expired imported flour were seized from Farine’s headquarters in Minhang District, and eight senior managers were taken away.
At this point, it’s not clear what will happen to Farine or to Pecol’s other businesses in Shanghai, including the WIYF ice cream counter and the well-respected Franck bistro (his namesake restaurant).
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