Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Death Sentence for China's Head of Food and Drug Safety

The BBC reports on a drastic solution to China's serious problem with food and drug safety, with the ultimate penalty for the director of their version of the FDA.

"Zheng Xiaoyu used to be one of the most trusted men in China. He was in charge of making sure his country's food and drugs did not kill anyone.

"But, on Tuesday morning in Beijing, a court found that he had failed - badly. He was found guilty of accepting bribes and of lowering safety standards.

"For his failure, he will be shot dead."

Zheng was in charge of the food and drug administration from its creation in 1998 to the time he was fired in 2005. But it was in 2002 that he saw his power rise dramatically: that's when the the government required all drugs be approved by the agency. With the new ribbon of red tape, the approval of new drugs and food products became very slow. Some manufacturers decided to expedite the process with bribes for officials, including Zheng.

The Associated Press reports (read it on MSNBC China’s Health Ministry found almost 34,000 food-related illnesses in 2005. "According to The Outlook Weekly, a magazine published by the Chinese government’s news agency, a survey by the quality inspection administration found that a third of China’s 450,000 food production companies had no licenses. Also, 60 percent of the total did not conduct safety tests or have the capability to do so."

Zheng was sentenced on May 29, 2007.

The BBC article goes on to say:

"China has promised to get rid of its supply of fake and contaminated drugs. It carries out periodic raids, and calls in cameras to take pictures of its hauls. But the outside world is sceptical. This year alone, there have been reports of contaminated Chinese drugs ending up in Panama, the Dominican Republic, and the United States.

"The Chinese Communist Party now realises it has a huge problem - fake drugs made in [their] country kill people."

But will the execution of Zheng Xiaoyu be enough to scare counterfeiters away from huge profits?

Counterfeit Blood Protein Revealed in China

Does counterfeiting know no bounds?

From the BBC:

"Chinese investigators say nearly 60 hospitals and pharmacies in north-eastern China have been using fake blood protein in patients' drips.

"Albumin, or plasma protein, is used to treat patients suffering from shock and burns and during open-heart surgery.

"Experts suggest that the fake product could be life-threatening for those already in a serious condition.

"The scandal is the latest to expose weaknesses in China's regulation of food and drug standards.

"The food and drug administration in the north-eastern state of Jilin found 18 hospitals and more than 30 pharmacies sold or were selling false batches of the albumin.

"'There was no element of protein, so it could not perform its intended function,' said the administration's deputy director, Xu Fei.

"'These were out-and-out fakes,' he added.

"Officials did not say whether anyone had died or fallen ill through using the false protein, though one Chinese newspaper said it had led to one death.

"China Central Television cited an official saying those making the false albumin were making a 300% profit, assisted by shortages of the genuine product.

"The administration said its investigations had 'effectively cleaned up the market'.

You can read the whole article on the BBC website.


Here are links to my earlier blog entries on the subject of China's counterfeit practices in food and medical products:

Is ANYTHING safe from China these days?

Food Safety: So Much More Than E. coli

Another Tale of Food Safety Challenges in China

Deadly Industrial Chemicals from China Landing Up Cough Syrup and Other Products

Trail to Chinese Food Producers Turns Cold