McDonald’s: Russia watchdog widens probe into food chain
Russia’s consumer watchdog has announced unscheduled checks on McDonald’s restaurants across Russia as part of a probe into food standards.
The move comes after watchdog Rospotrebnadzor temporarily shut four McDonald’s restaurants in Moscow.
The actions come amid rising tensions and sanctions between Russia and the West over the crisis in the Ukraine.
The regulator denied the checks were politically motivated. McDonald’s said “top quality” food was its priority.
“There are complaints about the quality and safety of the products in fast food restaurant chain McDonald’s,” said the regulatory agency.
Russia has previously used its food standards watchdog to ban products when diplomatic tensions have been high, including wine from Georgia, cheese from Ukraine and apples from Poland.
BBC Moscow correspondent Steve Rosenberg said: “It does seem, if not the public, then the people in power, are losing their appetite for American fast food.”
Unscheduled checks will be made in McDonald’s restaurants in the region of Sverdlovsk in west-central Russia, the Volga region of Tatarstan, the central Voronezh region, and the Moscow region.
A McDonald’s spokeswoman for European operations said the company was aware that the regulator was carrying out the checks, which would be likely to continue for a couple of months.
The spokeswoman added that McDonald’s serves millions of customers a day in Russia, and wanted minimal disruption for them.
A McDonald’s spokeswoman in Russia added: “We have always been and are now open to any checks.”
According to the Ria Novosti state news agency, checks have been ordered across Russia’s Central Federal District, and that inspections of McDonald’s in all of Russia’s regions will take place.
“There has been a selection of microbiology tests, sanitary and chemical tests, and identification indicators,” the watchdog said.
The checks and restaurant closures come amid a background of diplomatic tensions and tit-for-tat sanctions between Russia and the West over the crisis in the Ukraine. The West has accused Russia of supporting pro-Russian militants.
Earlier this month, Russia imposed an embargo on food imports from the EU, US and some other Western countries, in response to sanctions over Ukraine.
On Wednesday, the regulator temporarily closed four Moscow restaurants as part of an ongoing investigation of McDonald’s.
The first ever McDonald’s in Pushkin Square, which opened 24 years ago, was one of the outlets that was shut. Restaurants on Manezh Square, Svobodny prospect 35b and Prospect Mira were also closed.
According to Ria Novosti, the restaurants were closed after the watchdog alleged numerous breaches of health and safety regulations.