From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]
IN BROADER BRANDING DISASTER
China executes ex-food safety chief
By Geoff Dyer in Shanghai / July 10 2007
China on Tuesday executed its former chief food and drug regulator for
taking bribes to approve medicines, in an apparently draconian warning
to other officials after a series of scandals about the quality of
The execution of Zheng Xiaoyu, 62, was confirmed by state media after
the Supreme People’s Court approved the death sentence on charges that
he took Rmb6.5m ($855,094) in bribes from eight pharmaceuticals
companies. Mr Zheng is the most senior central government official to
be executed since 2000 and the harsh penalty and swift enforcement,
after an initial trial in May, underlines mounting government concern
about the scandals that have damaged the reputation of Chinese
Mr Zheng was accused of approving the sale of six medicines that
turned out to be fakes during his seven-year tenure as head of the
State Food and Drugs Administration. In one case, a gallbladder
medicine containing the wrong ingredients is believed to have led to
the deaths of at least five people.
A SFDA spokeswoman said the scandals underlined the weak institutional
apparatus in China to monitor the quality of products such as food and
“China is a developing country and our supervision of food and drugs
started late and our foundation for this work is weak,” said Yan
Jiangying. “Therefore we cannot be too optimistic about the food and
drug safety situation.” The government is rotating officials in key
posts to prevent them from becoming too close to companies, she said.
In addition to the cases of fake medicines connected to Mr Zheng’s
trial, China has witnessed a series of product safety scares in recent
years including a cancer-causing dye used to colour egg yolks, fake
milk powder that resulted in the deaths of several babies, and pork
that contained banned additives.
The prosecution of Mr Zheng has also coincided with safety problems
with Chinese products in the US, including pet food that contained an
industrial chemical, toys covered in lead paint, and tires that lacked
an important safety feature. Meanwhile, Spain withdrew two leading
brands of Chinese-made toothpaste because of a risk to public health,
the European Commission said.
A former senior aide to Mr Zheng, Cao Wenzhuang, was also sentenced to
death for his role in the bribery allegations involving his former
boss, but he was given a two-year reprieve. Lawyers said that in most
such cases the sentence was reduced at a later date.
China’s reputation at risk, says SFDA
By Li Fangchao (China Daily) / 2007-07-09
China needs to tackle problems with food and drug quality otherwise it
risks serious damage to its credibility on the international stage,
the country’s top food and drug watchdog has warned.
“Our country is facing a period with high risks for food safety,” Sun
Xianze, a senior official with the State Food and Drug Administration
Sun, director of the department of food safety coordination under the
SFDA, made the warning at a seminar on food and drug supervision, held
over the weekend.
He said authorities faced an “arduous task” ahead.
A series of Chinese food exports ranging from pet food to seafood were
alleged to contain hazardous chemicals, sparkling wide concerns over
the country’s food and drug safety.
“The food security problems have impeded Chinese agri-products and
food many times in international trade, and damaged our national
credibility and image,” Sun said.
To ensure better quality of food and drug products, the SFDA has
stepped up efforts to push unqualified producers out of the market.
In a statement posted on its website, the SFDA said it had revoked the
production licenses of five drug manufacturers since last July and
also withdrawn the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certificates from
128 drug makers mainly in Jilin, Henan, Hainan, Sichuan and Anhui
Eleven people were reported to have died last year after taking a drug
made by the Qiqihar No 2 Pharmaceutical Co Ltd, in Northeast China’s
Heilongjiang Province, one of the five companies shut down by the
Guangdong Baiyi Pharmaceutical was reported to have made hemoglobin,
which was infected with a virus carried by a donor.
The administration also revoked the production licenses of three
factories in Fujian, Henan and Hebei provinces.
The SFDA said it had increased the number of GMP inspectors in
pharmaceutical factories and monitored the production quality of
narcotic drug makers across the country during the first half of this
In another development, the food and drug watchdog has suspended a
drug used to treat acute leukemia and rheumatoid arthritis after
several adverse reaction cases were found.
Several child patients suffering leukemia in three hospitals in the
Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Shanghai felt pain in their legs
and even had difficulty walking after being injected with the
methotrexate, a drug produced by Shanghai Hualian Pharmaceutical Co
Ltd, according to the SFDA.
The SFDA has ordered the local food and drug administrations in
Guangxi and Shanghai to reevaluate the drugs.
Chinese products fall short at home
Amid international concern about imports, a government report says 20%
of goods sold within the country fail quality standards.
By Mitchell Landsberg / July 5, 2007
BEIJING – While international concern over China’s food and product
safety has focused on exports to the United States and other
countries, a report published Wednesday suggests that it is the
Chinese people who have the most to fear.
A government watchdog says that more than 99% of the foods exported to
the United States met Chinese quality standards, slightly higher than
the safety score of U.S. foods imported into China. But the report
says nearly one-fifth of all goods sold domestically failed to meet
The report by the General Administration of Quality Supervision,
Inspection and Quarantine was the latest effort by the government to
reassure foreign consumers and to demonstrate that a recent string of
incidents involving tainted products, including potentially lethal
toothpaste and pet food, was being blown out of proportion. China is
worried about a consumer backlash against an industry that generates
billions of dollars in sales each year.
“China attaches great importance to the quality and safety of Chinese
exports,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a news
But though officials have called the international reaction overblown,
an influential Chinese newspaper published an editorial Wednesday
saying that Chinese food sometimes failed other countries’ quality
standards because China’s own standards were too lax.
“It is becoming increasingly urgent to raise the food safety standards
to international levels,” the official China Daily said.
The newspaper, citing unidentified sources, said the government
recently abolished hundreds of food safety standards that the industry
had set for itself. The government move was part of a campaign to
overhaul and raise the standards.
The latest government report on consumer safety seemed to reinforce a
point Beijing has been trying to make in response to the tainted food
scandals: that the most unreliable products are made by relatively
small, hard-to-monitor companies, while the large companies with goods
most likely to be exported have significantly higher standards.
In a survey of 7,200 products from more than 6,000 companies,
government researchers say they found that 93% of the products made by
large companies met national standards, compared with 73% of those
from small companies.
The products surveyed during the first half of this year included
food, everyday commodities and farm machinery, officials said.
Overall, the report said, 19.1% of the products made for domestic
consumption were substandard, a slight improvement from last year.
Separately, the watchdog agency said that 99.2% of the food China
shipped to the United States in 2006 met quality standards, compared
with 99% of U.S. foodstuffs imported by China.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not issue reports that
correspond exactly to those from Chinese authorities, but publishes
monthly accounts of how many food items are refused entry to the
United States. For June 2007, there were 146 such items from China.
Some cases were relatively innocuous, involving items rejected for
improper labels or lack of proper registration. But others included
preserved lemons and dried peaches that were labeled “unsafe” and
“filthy,” and pet treats contaminated with salmonella, as well as food
rejected for unsafe levels of pesticides or anti-bacterial agents.
China had the largest number of items rejected that month, ahead of
India and Mexico. China has led the list for four of the last six
mitchell [dot] landsberg [at] latimes [dot] com
Now China points finger at “fake” water
(Reuters) / 2007-07-10 23:33
Up to half of the water used in water coolers across China’s capital
could be “fake,” or not as pure as its manufacturers claim, state
media said on Tuesday of the latest in a series of health scares.
The bogus water was either tap water or purified water of
miscellaneous small brands poured into empty barrels sealed with
quality standard marks, Liu Xiaoyun, the Beijing sales manager of a
bottled water brand said.
Liu said the counterfeits began to appear in Beijing in 2002, five
years after barrelled, as opposed to bottled, water emerged as an
Four suppliers dominated the water cooler market, Liu was quoted as
saying. Of an annual sales volume of at least 200 million barrels, 100
million were counterfeit.
Overall, a barrel of fake water costs bogus producers only 2.5 yuan
($0.33) to 3 yuan, whereas the real ones cost them 6 yuan each. “In
either case, a barrel of water is sold at well over 10 yuan in the
The lack of supervision had given “leverage” to counterfeit makers in
each chain of the production process, from corporate distributors to
unauthorised workshops and water delivery stations.
Three years ago, a nationwide inspection on barrelled water found a 22
percent substandard rate. In the most serious case, 80 percent of
barrelled water in the southern province of Jiangxi was reportedly not
the real thing.
China Executes Former Drug Regulator
By JOSEPH KAHN / July 11, 2007
BEIJING, July 10 – China executed its former top food and drug
regulator today for taking bribes to approve untested medicine as
Beijing scrambled to show that it is serious about improving the
safety of Chinese products.
Zheng Xiaoyu, the former head of the State Food and Drug
Administration, was executed on Tuesday for approving untested
medicine in exchange for cash.
The Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court carried out the death
sentence against Zheng Xiaoyu, 62, the former head of the State Food
and Drug Administration, soon after the country’s Supreme Court
rejected his final appeal.
Mr. Zheng, who had appealed his May 29 sentence on the grounds that it
was too severe and that he had confessed to the bribery charges
against him, became the first ministerial-level official put to death
since 2000 and only the fourth since China opened it doors to the
outside world nearly 30 years ago.
The official Xinhua news agency announced the execution but did not
say how Mr. Zheng was killed. In most cases, court police execute
prisoners by shooting them in the back of the head, though recently
police have also used lethal injections.
China carries out more court-ordered executions than the rest of the
world combined, according to human rights groups. But even by local
standards the sentence against Mr. Zheng was unusually harsh and his
execution uncommonly swift.
The country’s Supreme Court has recently made a highly publicized
effort to show that it carefully reviews all death sentences and that
it has restricted the power of local courts to impose that penalty.
But Mr. Zheng’s case appears to have served a political purpose,
allowing senior leaders to show that they have begun confronting the
country’s poor product safety record. Shoddy or dangerous goods,
including toothpaste, pet food ingredients, toys and car tires, have
damaged its reputation abroad, especially in the United States.
China is the world’s largest exporter of consumer products, and
tainted goods represent a small fraction of the country’s more than $1
trillion in annual exports. But officials clearly worry that
protectionist forces in the United States could use the spate of
quality problems to restrict trade.
At the same time Mr. Zheng was executed, representatives of the
country’s leading food and drug regulatory bodies held a joint press
conference to emphasize their determination to crack down on fake and
counterfeit food and medicine.
After weeks denying serious problems or blaming foreign forces for
exaggerating the issue, officials have recently begun to strike a less
defensive tone. One senior official acknowledged that the food and
drug safety network still allowed too many unsafe goods to slip
through, and said that at the moment the trend “is not promising.”
“As a developing country, China’s current food and drug safety
situation is not very satisfactory because supervision of food and
drug safety started late,” Yan Jiangying, deputy policy director of
the State Food and Drug Administration, the agency Mr. Zheng headed,
said. “Its foundation is weak so the supervision of food and drug
safety is not easy.”
Asked about his death sentence, Ms. Yan said: “Corruption in the food
and drug authority has brought shame to the nation. What we will have
to learn from the experience is to improve our work and emphasize
Regulators said their ability to monitor food and drug purity would
greatly increase by 2010, when they enhanced their ability to respond
to accidents and establish a national product recall system.
The authorities said inspectors would start shifting posts more often
to prevent corruption, and that they would inspect a wider range of
goods more frequently to ferret out fakes.
But they acknowledged that they face challenges in eliminating unsafe
products. China has about 200 million farms, many of them less than an
acre in size. It has nearly 450,000 food processing companies, nearly
80 percent with 10 employees or fewer, said Lin Wei, a senior official
at the General Administration of Quality, Supervision, Inspection and
“This is our national condition,” Mr. Lin said. “It is our hope that
by 2010 we can reduce the number of small food workshops by 50 percent
and effectively curb law breaking and counterfeiting.”
Officials acknowledge that responsibility for food and drug safety
involves as many as 17 government agencies, ranging from the Ministry
of Health, which sets hygienic standards, to the Public Security
Bureau, which has power to investigate criminal cases.
This fragmented authority has led to a proliferation of licensing fees
and fines. But it has also allowed local officials to protect
factories in their domain and created overlapping jurisdictions in
which no single agency exercises ultimate responsibility, Chinese
regulatory experts say.
On Tuesday, officials said the five agencies that had the most direct,
front-line responsibility for food and drug safety had stepped up
Officials also appeared worried that the safety scare could diminish
attendance or otherwise limit the boost to its economic development
and global prestige it hoped to get from playing host to the Olympic
Games next year. The authorities outlined measures they have taken to
guarantee clean food and water supplies for athletes and spectators at
Fears abroad over Chinese-made products were prompted last year by the
deaths of dozens of people in Panama who took cough syrup that
contained diethylene glycol, a poisonous chemical, that was imported
from China. The Chinese manufacturer had labeled the item as glycerin,
commonly used as a harmless ingredient in drugs.
Chinese-made pet food ingredients tainted with the chemical melamine
caused the deaths of cats and dogs in the United States this year.
American regulators have since turned away drug-tainted seafood
products, juice containing unsafe additives and toy trains colored
with lead paint.
The United States and several other countries have banned Chinese-made
toothpaste that contains diethylene glycol. No reports of health
problems stemming from the product have emerged, however, and China
allows the use of diethylene glycol in toothpaste in small quantities.
Mr. Zheng became China’s top drug regulator in 1994, when he was named
the head of what was then called the State Pharmaceutical
Administration. In 2003, the agency became the State Food and Drug
Administration and acquired responsibility for overseeing the nation’s
food supply, an attempt by the government to consolidate regulatory
authority into one agency.
He was removed in June 2005 for reasons that were not specified at the
time. His ouster followed a period of bureaucratic infighting over the
food and drug regulator’s expanded responsibilities, which encroached
on the purview and revenue sources of rival departments.
Late last year Mr. Zheng was charged with accepting $850,000 in bribes
to grant approval for hundreds of medicines. State media said that his
agency had approved 137 drugs for which proper applications had not
been submitted, and that six of those drugs turned out to be fakes.
The list of drugs included an antibiotic blamed for at least 10 deaths
in China, state media said.
Continuing the crackdown, a Beijing court on Friday meted out another
capital sentence to Mr. Zheng’s deputy, Cao Wenzhuang. Mr. Cao was
given a two-year reprieve, however, which often results in commutation
to life in prison.