Wal-Mart has been ordered to temporarily close some stores in the Chinese city of Chongqing and to pay 2.7 million yuan ($421,000) in fines following an investigation into the mislabeling of tons of regular pork as "organic."
The retail giant said Monday in a statement that Chongqing police had detained some of its employees over what has been dubbed the "green pork" incident. It apologized to shoppers for any inconvenience and said it was cooperating with authorities.
Wal-Mart has 10 stores and two affiliates in Chongqing, a massive metropolis of 32 million people in western China. The company said it was ordered to close some of its stores in the city, but did not say exactly how many. State media reported all 12 stores were temporarily closed.
China still is reporting constant problems with mislabeling, repackaging of expired food, counterfeit and substandard food and other issues despite long and repeated efforts to improve enforcement of food safety rules. Such cases are common in markets and smaller stores, but alleged violations by big foreign stores tend to draw more attention.
The Wal-Mart stores were accused of selling more than 63,500 kilograms (14.4 tons) of mislabeled pork, the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing the director of the Chongqing Administration of Industry and Commerce, Huang Bo.
He said the fine amounted to 10 times the value of the falsely labeled pork sold. The report said Wal-Mart had been repeatedly punished for violating food standards and other rules since it began operating in Chongqing in 2006.
"Wal-Mart is committed to protecting the rights of consumers and will spare no efforts in this regard," the company said in the statement.
According to its website, Wal-Mart has 284 outlets in more than 100 Chinese cities. Some are outlets of local retail chains acquired by Wal-Mart.