The judgement was delivered by a court in Shanghai last week after KFC had sued the companies in May for operating a number of accounts on the WeChat social messaging platform that slandered the Yum Brands company to an audience of more than 100,000.
One of the posts said: “My friend's father, who is a high ranking bank official, visited KFC's farm in China and said that every chicken there had six wings and eight legs.”
KFC, which had initially called for 3.5m yuan in compensation, argued that the posts had worried consumers and damaged its image in China.
The Shanghai Xuhui District People's Court ruled that the three companies had harmed KFC's reputation and their postings had directly led to financial losses.
The court also ordered the defendants to make a public apology to KFC on major Chinese web portals.
The fried chicken chain is China's biggest restaurant operator, and is a staple food for young Chinese. It has almost 5,000 restaurants in the country, and on average opens a new branch every day.
KFC's China chief executive said when the company launched its action that it was difficult for businesses to protect their brands against rumours because of the difficulties in collecting evidence.
She added that "the stepped-up efforts by the government in recent years to purify the online environment, as well as some judicial interpretations, have offered us confidence and weapons”.
The Beijing government last year intensified a campaign to clean up rumours on social media, which are often posted by internet marketeers trying to manipulate online sentiment on behalf of clients.
The court ruled against Shanxi Weilukuang Technology Company, Taiyuan Zero Point Technology Company and Yingchenanzhi Success and Culture Communication in Shenzhen, southeast China.
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Authorities outline plans to boost sustainable farming
Beijing has released a policy document to show how state authorities aim to encourage sustainability in agriculture through improved efficiency and environmental protection.
The document, which was released by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council, said that policies and technological support will be improved to protect agricultural resources and increase their efficiency. Such resources will also be prevented from being tapped excessively, according to the paper.
The amount of land dedicated to arable farming will never shrink to less than 120m hectares by guarantee, while farmland will be protected in "quantity, quality and biodiversity," it said, reiterating a ban on turning woodland into farmland.
Policies and technology should be improved to prevent further pollution in agricultural production and support will be given to recycling farming.
Biodiversity protection will be boosted. By 2020, woodland coverage will be above 23% and wetland acreage will be above 53m hectares.
To boost food safety, the document outlined how China would tailor its national standards on residues in food from pesticide and veterinary drugs to be on par with international conventions by 2020.
Meanwhile, China will include courses for farmers in a bid to modernise agriculture. Full-time junior farmers enrolled in training courses will able to apply for financial support as part of a five-year programme to improve professional knowledge and skills.
Ingredion makes acquisition to develop Chinese starch business
Ingredion has signed an agreement to buy Shandong Huanong Speciality Corn Development Co. to expand its speciality starch business in the Far East.
The global ingredient provider agreed the deal with Pingyuan County Juyuan State-Owned Asset Management Co. for an undisclosed amount. The move is subject to approval from Chinese state authorities.
“This acquisition is another step in executing our strategic blueprint for growth. It enhances our capacity in the Asia-Pacific region with a vertically integrated manufacturing base for specialty ingredients,” said Jorgen Kokke, Ingredion's regional president.
“China is a growing market for our specialty starches, and this acquisition provides a base for further expansion to accommodate future market growth in China and across Asia-Pacific.”
Wang Hong Xia, head of Pingyuan County, added: “We welcome Ingredion as an investor in Pingyuan County. Their investment provides excellent growth and development opportunities for the work force and local economy.”