Tuesday, July 10, 2007

China Executes Ex-Food and Drug Chief

China Executes Ex-Food and Drug Chief
China executed a former director of its food and drug agency July 10th for approving fake medicine in exchange for cash, illustrating how serious Beijing is about tackling product safety, while officials announced steps to safeguard food at next summer's Olympic Games.
During Zheng Xiaoyu's tenure as head of the State Food and Drug Administration from 1997 to 2006, the agency approved six untested drugs that turned out to be fake, and some drug-makers used falsified documents to apply for approvals, according to state media reports. One antibiotic caused the deaths of at least 10 people.
Zheng's death sentence was unusually severe even for China, which is believed to carry out more court-ordered executions than all other nations combined, and indicates the communist leadership's determination to confront the country's dire product safety record.
Zheng, 63, was convicted of taking cash and gifts worth $832,000 when he was in charge of the food and drug agency.
He was sentenced to death on May 29 and his appeal was rejected on June 12 by the Higher People's Court of Beijing. China's Supreme Court approved the sentence, saying Zheng "committed vile crimes and caused extreme harm to society."
"Although he confessed to some of the crimes of bribe-taking and returned some of the illegal income, it was not enough for leniency," the court said.
Zheng's execution July 10th was confirmed by state television and the official Xinhua News Agency.
Next year's Beijing Olympics, a great source of pride for China, also has been targeted in the crackdown on unsafe food. Sun Wenxu, an official with the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, told reporters that athletes, coaches, officials and others can be assured of safe meals.
Fears abroad over Chinese-made drugs were sparked last year by the deaths of dozens of people in Panama who took medicine contaminated with diethylene glycol - a thickening agent used in antifreeze - imported from China. It was passed off as harmless glycerin.
Chinese-made toothpaste containing diethylene glycol has been banned in North and South America and Asia, though there have been no reports of health problems stemming from the product. China has no guideline banning the chemical in toothpaste, and the government says it is harmless in small amounts.
In the United States and Canada, pet food containing Chinese wheat gluten tainted with the chemical melamine has been blamed for the deaths of dogs and cats. Since then, U.S. authorities have turned away or recalled toxic fish, juice containing unsafe color additives and popular toy trains decorated with lead paint.
The list of food scares within China over the past year includes drug-tainted fish, industrial dye used to color egg yolks red and pork tainted with a banned feed additive.
Cao Wenzhuang, a former director of the food and drug agency's drug registration department, was sentenced to death last week for accepting bribes and dereliction of duty. He was given a two-year reprieve, which usually means he can get life in prison if deemed to have reformed.
Yan said the food and drug agency was working to tighten its safety procedures and create a more transparent operating environment. The administration has announced a series of measures to tighten safety controls and closed factories where illegal chemicals or other problems were found.
The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine posted on its Web site Monday the names of 13 companies that have been banned from exporting after their products were found to be substandard.
, authorities promised to investigate water purity after a newspaper reported that more than half of the water coolers in Beijing use counterfeit branded water.
The Beijing Times reported that water jugs are filled with either tap water or purified water from small suppliers and sealed with bogus quality standard marks.
The report said the practice is widespread because water from major suppliers can cost twice as much as water from other sources.
Wu Jianping, an official with the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, noted that a May inspection of Beijing's drinking water products found more than 96 percent were safe.
"Problems found with some individual cases cannot be interpreted to mean that the entire water industry has problems," Wu said.

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