Chinese branches of Wal-Mart have been forced to recall batches of donkey meat after it was found to contain fox.
The US company has apologised and said it would reimburse shoppers in China who bought the “Five Spice” donkey product, which tests showed contained the DNA of other animals.
According to local news reports, the problem was first brought to the attention of food standards officials when a customer, identified only by his surname Wang, found the so-called donkey meat looked, smelled and tasted strange.
He sent the product to a testing institute, and the Shandong Food and Drug Administration later announced that it contained fox meat.
Wal-Mart said it has launched an investigation into the incident, adding that the manager at a supplier’s factory had already been detained.
“We are deeply sorry for this whole affair,” said Wal-Mart's China president and CEO, Greg Foran. “It is a deep lesson that we need to continue to increase investment in supplier management.”
Shaun Rein, the Shanghai-based managing director of China Market Research (CMR) Group, told Reuters: “This is another hit on Wal-Mart's brand, meaning wealthy shoppers will start to lose the trust they had before.”
Donkey meat is popular in China, though makes up a tiny proportion of all meat products consumed. Fox meat, on the other hand, is cheap because of its distinctive smell and the fact that eating it could pose serious health risks, a breeder told the Yangcheng Evening News.
Wal-Mart, which is the largest supermarket chain in the world and has more than 400 stores across China, has been hit with a number of scandals in the far east in recent years.
In 2011, the China government fined Wal-Mart, along with Carrefour, a combined 9.5 million yuan (£950,000) for manipulating product prices. That same year the US retailer was also fined in China for selling duck meat past its expiry date.