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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Food & Drug safety chief sentenced to death in China

The unusually harsh sentence ... comes at a time of heightened concerns about the quality and safety of China’s food and drug system after a series of scandals involving tainted food and phony drugs.

China is also under mounting pressure to overhaul its food export controls after two Chinese companies were accused this year of shipping contaminated pet food ingredients to the United States...

The incidents pose a huge threat to China’s growing food and drug exports and have already led to international calls for new testing and screening methods for Chinese-made goods.

The problems are more serious in China because tens of thousands of people are sickened or killed every year because of rampant counterfeiting and phony food and drugs...

Today, the government said it was preparing to release its first regulation on nationwide food recalls.

The government also said it would crack down on food products that are being illegally exported, bypassing food inspections.
read the rest in the New York Times

The sentence is not that "unusually harsh," as noted in a previous post here. While I was in China I read, in English language Chinese newspapers, of a number of death sentences for corruption involving great financial loss or damage to China's image. One, when I first arrived, involved smuggling, others were for graft and embezzlement. In China a crime against capital is a capital crime. The post linked to above was in 2003, about how China had redoubled its efforts to crack corruption. It seems they haven't made enough progress since then, even though you read reports regularly, in state controlled media, of corruption arrests and convictions. This one is, excuse the pun, pretty high up on the food chain.

I understand Vice Premier Wu Yi promised better controls on exported food and components at the trade talks last week, but anyone who's spent any length of time in China knows that this will be a long time coming, if at all. I'm utterly certain the intention of the government is to assure that all exported and domestically consumed food and food components are clean and safe, but this is next to impossible for them. They've grown too fast to keep up. The administrative infrastructure is not in place, violations occur in countless hard-to-administrate locations, regulations are at the behest of officials who take bribes and producers who are cavalier about regulations and quick to shrug them off if caught.

I know protectionism is a dirty word, but protection shouldn't be, where health and safety are concerned. Since for the present the onus is on this country to assure the safety of consumable imports, I don't see any problem in having China pay for some of it. This is one case, I sincerely believe, where tariffs and sanctions are called for, and quickly, before any more damage is done.

// posted by Ellen @  15:00   //Permalink// 
Ellen says hey
Mainer, New Yawka, Beijinger, Californian, points between. News, views and ballyhoos that piqued my interest and caused me to sigh, cry, chuckle, groan or throw something.

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