SHANGHAI (Reuters) -Market regulators in eight Chinese cities said they had carried out inspections of Starbucks shops after the U.S. coffee chain said it found food safety issues at two outlets in the eastern Chinese city of Wuxi.

The checks followed a local newspaper report on Monday that the two outlets in Wuxi had used expired ingredients in their drinks.

Starbucks issued a statement after the report apologising for the violations and saying it would conduct inspections and staff training at its more than 5,000 stores across China.

On Tuesday, the Suzhou market supervision bureau said on its official WeChat account that it had inspected the city’s 226 Starbucks outlets and found issues at 18 of them, including irregular sales and purchase records, uncovered trash bins and employees working without masks.

City authorities also carried out urgent checks on Starbucks outlets in Shanghai, Nanjing, Changsha, Wuxi, Hefei and Yinchuan, according to local media reports published on Wednesday.

The Shanghai and Hefei regulators said they had not found any problems. The others either did not indicate the results of the inspections or did not find any food safety-related issues.

A Starbucks spokesperson referred Reuters to the company’s Monday statement when asked about the inspections.

Chinese consumers and media have become more aggressive about protecting customer rights and monitoring the behaviour of big brands, especially from overseas.

China is the largest market for Starbucks outside the United States, with 5,360 stores as of Oct. 3, the firm’s latest earnings report showed.

(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Additional reporting by Sophie Yu; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Edmund Klamann)

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