Fast food chain KFC is feeling the strain of a new bird flu outbreak in China, with growing concerns over food safety sending sales downhill.
Since China announced the first known cases of the H7N9 avian flu virus, restaurant sales in the country were badly hit by a food safety scare.
Parent company Yum Brands Inc. said Wednesday that publicity surrounding the outbreak has had “a significant, negative impact” on KFC sales, which saw a 16% drop in March. Figures at Yum’s China restaurants open at least a year fell 13% from 2012.
The impact from the bird flu cases would be reflected in April’s sales results, which will be reported May 10, reports The Associated Press.
Yum, the biggest Western fast food operator in China, with about 5,300 locations, said it plans to educate consumers.
“Historically in these situations, we have educated consumers that properly cooked chicken is perfectly safe to eat, and we will continue to do so,” the company said in a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The bird flu outbreak has already led to 9 deaths and 33 reported infections, according to Chinese authorities. There is no solid link between food and humans contracting the virus.
Earlier this week, Taiwan culled more than 100 parrots and pigeons smuggled from mainland China as part of measures to contain the spread of the virus.