China gets tough on authorities over food pirating

Related tags Baby food Infant

China is cracking down on government officials over alleged
misconduct that led to the deaths of at least 13 babies in China's
North-Eastern provinces following the illegal sale of fake milk

The crack down, which forms part of a national programme to prevent local government corruption, began in October when some 13 officials were first arrested over alleged misconduct. Now the authorities are saying that a total of 97 officials are being investigated with a view to punishing them because they did not discover or fully investigate the problem with the fake milk powder.

One shopkeeper has already been jailed for eight years for knowingly selling the fake baby food.

The infant formula, which tests later proved to contain little more than starch and water and had virtually no nutritional value, was manufactured by around 100 factories in Heilongjiang Province at the beginning of the year. Officials believe that at least 60 tons of the powder was produced and distributed to local retailers under a leading brand name.

As well as the 13 deaths, some 189 babies were taken ill with severe malnutrition. One of the side affects was a swelling of the affected babies' heads, which led some parents to believe that their infants were thriving on the formula.

According to Xinhua reports, the investigations have shown that many officials were aware about the manufacturing of the fake baby food and, in some cases, were colluding with factory owners to their own benefit. During this time the manufacturing of the fake baby food continued, despite parents' complaints to officials over the affects the formula was having on many infants.

In October Beijing said that nearly 7,000 government officials would undergo investigations in an efforts to weed out corruption, which is said to be endemic in certain aspects of local government. Many industry observers blame this corruption has led to a 'blind eye' being turned to food piracy, a problem that is estimated to cost the big food companies billions of dollars each year.

So far officials have received prison sentences ranging from 24 to 30 months.

The problem also affects food safety. The baby food poisoning scandal, which came to the media's attention in April of this year, was a prime example of just how serious the issue is and how important it is for the government to crack down on it. The baby food scandal has now done much to highlight China's poor food safety standards and bought attention to many other problematic areas in the industry, giving many good reason to believe that positive changes are in the offing.

Related topics Policy Food safety China East Asia

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