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China's tainted chicken scare hit McDonald's sales: CEO

By Lisa Baertlein

(Reuters) - Scares over the safety of China's chicken supply are taking a small bite out of McDonald's Corp's sales in that country, executives for the fast-food chain said on Wednesday.

Chinese authorities have cleared McDonald's and KFC owner Yum Brands Inc of charges they had served chicken laced with excessive chemicals, but the iconic U.S. chains - long considered to serve safer and higher quality food than domestic chains - remain under fire from local media and consumers.

The chicken scare "minimally impacted" McDonald's sales in China during the fourth quarter and continues to hurt business this year, Chief Executive Don Thompson said on a conference with analysts.

McDonald's sales at established restaurants for China fell 0.9 percent during the fourth quarter.

"We are committed to ensuring the highest food safety and quality standards are met around the world," Thompson said.

Earlier this month Yum apologized to customers in China over its handling of the scare, which is hitting sales in its biggest market.

Yum has more than 5,100 restaurants in China and is the largest Western restaurant operator in China.

McDonald's - the world's biggest restaurant chains by revenue - is rapidly building restaurants in China and has set a goal of having 2,000 in the country by the end of this year.

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)

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