Quality manager Zhang Hui had earlier told investigators that the company had been repackaging and selling out-of-date meat for years, after a broadcast exposé of Husi’s practices was aired by Shanghai’s Dragon TV station last weekend.
Shanghai food safety inspectors, who have visited almost 600 restaurants and businesses in the wake of the crisis, gave no further information on the arrests.
It has also emerged that Husi, which is owned by Illinois-based OSI Group, earlier this year won a court case against a former quality control worker who claimed he was forced by the company to forge meat production dates.
Wang Donglai, who worked at Husi for six years until 2013, said he was forced to do "unethical work" that violated food safety laws, according to Reuters, which cited court documents.
Seeking around RMB38,000 (US$6,150) in damages for health problems he blamed on alleged exposure to the chlorine used as cleaning agent by the company, Wang said he repeatedly urged his employer to change the practice, but the plea was ignored.
Unable to find evidence to substantiate Wang’s allegations, the case was dropped by the Shanghai Jiading District Court in January.
"I believe Husi has sufficiently learned its lesson (from the current scandal) and if it wants to survive it certainly needs to improve its standards," Xia Yugang, a lawyer who represented Shanghai Husi in the case, told Reuters.
The number of food chains named as customers of the meat processor has now reached double figures, with 7Eleven and Carl’s Jr joining Burger King, McDonald’s Pizza Hut and KFC. McDonald’s has now stopped selling some meat products in Hong Kong and Japan as a result of the food-safety scandal that has had the brands searching for replacement suppliers.
Hong Kong has now banned all imports of Husi products, while in Japan, the government’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare has launched its own investigation into the case after the FamilyMart convenience store chain was forced to halt sales of a product linked to Husi.
The ministry said it is trying to find out if any other local companies have imported expired meat from the company.
Yum! Brands-owned KFC and Pizza Hut have also severed all ties with Husi and will now “reevaluate [their] supervision and management system for suppliers”. Yum! has also hinted at the possibility of taking legal action against the processor.
Meanwhile, the Shanghai Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau has said it has launched an investigation into all food products exported by the company.