Police and food and drug administration officials in eastern China have arrested 11 people for manufacturing and distributing empty capsules laced with chromium. They are now attempting to trace all remaining capsules containing the toxic metal.
According to Xinhua, China’s official news agency, the authorities seized 440,000 units of the product during a raid on a rented workshop in Zhejiang province in late July.
They also confiscated more than 100kg of semi-finished capsules and over 700kg of capsule material made from industrial gelatin containing the toxin during an operation that began in February, and confirmed that 90m units that far exceeded official safety levels for edible gelatin had been produced.
Follows similar scandal
Police named Pan Bohai as the leader of the gang, and alleged the 10 others had also been involved in a tainted scandal in 2012, Xinhua reported.
Pan, who had previously worked at a now-bankrupt pharmaceutical firm that also produced empty capsules, gathered 10 friends to start his own business, the China Daily reported.
Authorities in Ninghai are currently tracking down where the tainted capsules might have been distributed, although there have been no reports of illness caused by taking the tainted capsules. Chromium can cause serious damage to organs.
Xinhua reported that the capsules were sold to four people that could be possible distributors. These four are now at the centre of a manhunt.
In 2012, authorities detained 45 people, arrested nine and seized more than 77m capsules contaminated with chromium, according to the South China Morning Post. The factories involved in that scandal were in Hebei province and Pan’s home county, Xinchang.
In a further twist, police have also detained a factory owner in Hebei for allegedly setting fire to his own plant to destroy evidence of making industrial gelatin, Xinhua said in a separate report.
Song Xunjie, manager of the Xueyang Glair Gelatin Factory, was said to be a supplier to companies across the country, it added.
Six Husi executives arrested
The action comes barely a week after six senior executives were formally arrested for their alleged part in the Shanghai Husi Foods scandal which saw employees repackaged expired meat for shipment to some of China’s most prominent international fast-food chains, including McDonald’s and Starbucks.
The six were charged with producing and selling counterfeit products, according the municipal procuratorate. Husi’s American parent, OSI China, confirmed on its website that six employees have been arrested and said it will support the investigation.
“OSI Group will continue to cooperate fully and in good faith with the authorities. We support the government’s consistent application of the country’s food quality and safety laws,” the statement said.
The company also announced this week that it had entered into a management services agreement with KanPak China, a subsidiary of California-based Golden State Foods. Under the single-facility agreement, KanPak will manage OSI’s Guangzhou facility, which produces vegetable and fruit products. OSI acquired the Guangzhou facility from Coronet Foods in 2001.
“Over the past six decades, OSI has established itself as a growing and enduring global leader in food safety and quality because we support our customers in a rigorous, innovative and transparent fashion. OSI always puts our customers first. This is one more example of that commitment,” OSI said on its website.