Food Safety Violators Could Face Death Penalty in China

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Workers labor at a milk product line in a dairy plant on September 19, 2008 in Chengdu of Sichuan Province, China. Twenty-two of the 109 milk food firms across the country have not passed the tests conducted by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ).

Melamine-laced milk, drug tainted pork, toxic bean sprouts — lots of tinkering is reportedly going on in China’s food industry. But is the death penalty going a tad too far?

China’s Supreme Court on Friday ordered judges nationwide to hand down harsher sentences to people who violate food safety standards. Those involved in fatal cases could be sentenced to more than 10 years in jail, face life in prison or even the death penalty. Those involved in non-lethal cases will also face longer prison terms and stiffer fines, as will government officials found to be protecting violators or taking bribes from them.

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This latest directive runs counter to efforts by China to reduce the number of death penalties handed out each year. The Chinese legislature earlier reduced the number of crimes punishable by death by from 68 to 55. But a public angered by recent food scandals helped galvanize a stronger push against violators. Even the normally tightly controlled media was recently encouraged to report more openly on food issues.

From last September to April this year, Xinhua reports 106 people were tried and convicted in Chinese courts for violating food safety laws, including two who last month went to jail life for their part in the “melamine milk” scandal. (via AP and CNN)

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