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Russian watchdog widens probe into McDonald's

Food safety agency to conduct checks on US chain's restaurants in the Urals, a day after four Moscow branches shutdown.

Last updated: 21 Aug 2014 15:30
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The shutdowns come in the wake of rising tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine [EPA]

Russia's food safety agency is to conduct checks on McDonald's restaurants in the Urals following food safety complaints, a day after four branches of the US chain were shut down in Moscow.

Natalya Lukyantseva, an official in the Sverdlovsk regional office of the agency, told the RIA Novosti and Interfax news agencies on Thursday that unplanned checks were being carried out in a number of restaurants after residents voiced safety concerns.

The inspections come one day after the agency, known in Russian as Rospotrebnadzor, ordered four Moscow-based restaurants to suspend operations, citing "numerous" sanitary law breaches.

The shutdowns come in the wake of rising tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine.

After the US and the European Union slapped sanctions on a range of Russian banks and crucial industries last month, Moscow responded with a wide-ranging ban on food products imported from those regions.

One of those restaurants, on Moscow's central Pushkin Square, was the first to open in the Soviet Union in 1990, drawing crowds of thousands that circled around the block.

The restaurant became a symbol of domestic reform and openness with the West, and is one of the company's most visited venues in Russia.

McDonalds could not be immediately reached for comment about the checks in Sverdlovsk, but a statement posted on the Russian version of its website on Wednesday said the company was doing "all it can for a speedy opening" of the four Moscow restaurants.

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