Wal-Mart Reopens 13 China Stores After Pork Case

BEIJING -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Tuesday reopened 13 of its stores in a southwestern Chinese city after they were ordered shut for 15 days over the mislabeling of tons of regular pork as "organic," state media reported.

Authorities in the city of Chongqing had also arrested two employees and fined the company 2.7 million yuan ($421,000) on charges of passing off regular pork as higher-priced organic meat earlier this month.

The official Xinhua News Agency said the stores in Chongqing reopened Tuesday. During the two-week closure, Wal-Mart set up supervisory teams at the stores to improve management and product labeling while local authorities conducted twice-daily inspections, Xinhua said.

Industry analysts say the penalties seemed unduly harsh and might be politically motivated as Chongqing officials try to position themselves as consumer advocates ahead of national leadership changes beginning next year.

Earlier this month, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said the president of Walmart China, Ed Chan, was stepping down and that his post would be temporarily filled by Scott Price, president of Walmart Asia. A company spokesman said the move was unrelated to the food labeling incident.

Food safety is a sensitive issue in China, which has been rocked by scandals ranging from deadly infant formula to chemical-laced pork and recycled restaurant oil tainted with potentially deadly molds.

Chongqing's Communist Party secretary, Bo Xilai, has won acclaim for cracking down on gangs, prostitution and other organized crime.

Earlier this year, both Wal-Mart and rival Carrefour were ordered to pay up to 500,000 yuan ($75,900) in fines for overcharging on items in their stores.