By Associated Press - Tuesday, September 15, 2015

MOSCOW (AP) - Russian state news agencies say government officials have issued a total of $600,000 in fines for alleged food safety violations at Burger King and French supermarket chain Auchan.

Anna Popova, head of Russian consumer protection agency Rospotrebnadzor, was quoted by media outlets including RIA Novosti as saying Auchan’s fines totaled over 25 million rubles ($372,000) and that “several hundred” employees were suspended from work.

Specific reasons for the fines were not immediately clear and Auchan declined to comment.

Auchan is also the target of allegations from Russia’s agricultural agency, which claims some Auchan meat products tested positive for bacteria such as E.Coli and listeria. The allegations have reportedly led Auchan to close down some facilities for cleaning.

The inspections come at a time of tension between France and Russia over the extension of European Union sanctions and France’s decision to cancel a deal to provide warships to Russia.

Meanwhile, the Russian consumer protection agency’s Moscow department says it issued 367 fines totaling over 15.4 million rubles ($230,000) over alleged violations after inspecting 78 Burger King restaurants and withdrew more than 14 kilograms of food from sale. The fines were issued against both legal entities and individuals, the agency said, and one restaurant was shut down for 90 days by court order, though it has since resumed operations.

The agency’s website detailed a myriad of violations, from the presence of E.Coli bacteria to poor ventilation, improper food labeling and a lack of “no smoking” signs. Regional branches of the consumer protection agency have been sent “informational letters” about possible violations by Burger King suppliers in their areas, a prelude to possible further inspections.

Last year, amid tensions with the U.S. over Western sanctions, the Russian consumer protection agency launched snap inspections of McDonald’s restaurants across Russia and briefly closed the company’s flagship restaurant in central Moscow over alleged breaches of sanitary laws.

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