Local fast-food devotees have an extra reason to celebrate this Christmas with yesterday's announcement that Colonel Sanders has finally resolved a languishing dispute with Chinese Customs officials that saw KFC's popular mashed potatoes banned on the mainland.
Following a six-month battle, KFC resumed sales of the dish yesterday, after the group altered its imported potato powder to meet Chinese quality standards.
"We must comply with the country's rules," said Xu Zhen, a public affairs manager of Tricon China, which owns KFC outlets on the mainland. Xu said the company was eager to reintroduce the powdered-potato delicacy before the busy New Year's holiday.
The dispute began in late June, when Customs officials in Shanghai and Xiamen refused to allow four tons of potato powder from the United States into the country because the products' bleach content was twice the allowed standard.
The blockade quickly caused a shortage of powdered potatoes, forcing KFC to stop selling the popular dish - called "potato mud" in Chinese - in restaurants across the mainland.
Tricon China blamed the dispute on differences between Chinese and American standards for food additives. The company's appeals, however, fell on deaf ears as did attempts to use domestic spuds because "the content and shape of Chinese potatoes failed to meet KFC's requirements," according to restaurant officials.
In the end, the fast-food chain changed the formula - only on the mainland - for its mashed potatoes. The company won't discuss what changes were made to the product, except to say that customers won't notice any change in taste or appearance.
Officials with the State General Administration for Quality Supervision and Inspection and Quarantine declined to comment on the issue, saying that the topic remains sensitive at present as international trade affairs are concerned.
More than 5 million tons of mashed potatoes worth 300 million yuan (US$36 million) are consumed annually at more than 540 KFC outlets on the mainland, the restaurant reports.
"I learned the news from media reports, and did not hesitate to try the potato dish again," said 60-year-old Jiang Jisong at a local KFC outlet yester-day. "In fact, my granddaughter orders two servings every time we come here."
(eastday.com December 25, 2001)