In the early 1980s, Sheldon Lavin, a banker-turned-burger tycoon, returned from a trip to China with big plans for his food-processing company OSI Group. “I don’t care if we sell the erasers off pencils, we are going to China,” he told his staff, according to a 2012 story in National Provisioner, an industry publication. Now, the 82-year-old Lavin is discovering just how difficult operating in China can be. On July 20, a Chinese television station showed plant workers at an OSI subsidiary in Shanghai repackaging and selling chicken and beef past their sell-by dates. It was just the latest food scandal in a nation already reeling from abuses that included fox DNA found in donkey meat and antibiotics-laced chicken. Within days, Starbucks Corp. (SBUX) and YUM Brands Inc. (YUM), which owns KFC and Pizza Hut, had cut ties with OSI. McDonald’s Corp., a longtime OSI partner, pulled beef, pork and chicken items from its Chinese restaurants, though it stuck with OSI. Over the past 30 years, Lavin parlayed OSI into a global food-processing giant that makes everything from Big Mac patties to the pork used in KFC’s breakfast burgers. Closely held OSI won a reputation for quality and safety in…
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