07/10/2007, 00.00
CHINA
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Poisonous food and drugs threaten social stability

Beijing is concerned that tainted food and drugs scandals that killed hundreds in China and abroad may damage the country’s credibility and generate dissatisfaction and social unrest. Authorities try to be reassuring saying that controls are now tighter. In the meantime a former State Food and Drug Administration chief is executed.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Chinese authorities are afraid that its food and drug-quality problems will damage its global credibility and provoked social instability. In the meantime the former head of China's State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), Zheng Xiaoyu, has been executed.

Sun Xianze, director of food safety co-ordination at the SFDA, said food-security problems not only impedes the growth of the mainland’s agricultural industry and damaged its credibility and image, but ends up creating dissatisfaction and insecurity in the population.

The issue was hampered by indolent and irresponsible officials and companies, SFDA head Shao Mingli conceded on its website. Quality controls have failed to meet the necessary standards.

There are many examples of this. In the last few months Chinese pet food sold in the United States was found containing melamine (a plastic substance) rather than protein. Tainted toothpaste was sold in Central America. Banned antibiotics and dyes were fed to ducks and contaminated the eggs. Fish and snails were also found to be tainted. Many people suffered from food-poisoning; some even died.

The United States have imposed stricter controls on Chinese fish products like catfish, prawns and eels after finding samples containing residues of banned pharmaceuticals.

In China government papers have highlighted the government’s crackdown on the use of pharmaceuticals. They have pointed out that last year the government’s watchdog revoked the production licences of five drug manufacturers, including Qiqihar No 2 Pharmaceutical, following the deaths of 11 people after they took a drug it manufactured

By the end of the year many thousands of manufacturers will have to be re-licensed. In the past year, the regulator rejected 1,437 licence applications for not complying with “technical requirements.”

With this climate of renewed rigour, the SFDA’s former head Zheng Xiaoyu was executed today. He had been convicted of dereliction of duty and of taking 6.5 million yuan (US$ 850,000) in bribes at a trial May 29. The bribes were linked to sub-standard medicines, which were blamed for several deaths. Zheng's appeal was heard on June 22 and rejected by the Higher People's Court of Beijing which upheld the death sentence

He has become the symbol of this crisis. For SFDA spokeswoman Yan Jiangying, corrupt officials are the shame of the food and drug supervision system.

 

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