The manufacturer had been collecting unsold, expired buns and processing them again with a new date of production and reselling them.
The prosecution heard that sodium cyclamate, an artificial sweetener, and potassium sorbate, a food preservative, had been added to the buns to give the appearance of being fresh.
Ye Weilu, the general manager of the food company was sentenced to nine years and fined 650,000 yuan (US$101,737) and Xu Jianming, production manager and Xie Weixian, sales manager, were each sentenced to five years and fined 200,000 yuan.
In a press conference, the deputy head of Shanghai’s Higher People’s Court, Ding Shouxing, said that food safety is one of the most challenging issues that Shanghai faces.
Ding called on food safety authorities to take responsibility.
“Authorities responsible for quality supervision over food production in Shanghai must step up their monitoring to halt such irresponsible behaviour,” Ding added.
Senior analyst at China Market Research, James Roy, told FoodNavigator-Asia that the motivation behind the government, by sentencing the three bun producers, is sending out a message to consumers that food safety issues are being addressed.
In the wake of the 2008 melamine scandal an over-arching Food Safety Law for China came into effect on June 1 2009.
Most recently, the 8thAmmendment of the Criminal Law, brought into effect on May 1 this year, sees prosecutions against food safety breaches that are more severe.
The amendment raised the minimal penalty for manufacturing and selling poisonous and harmful foods from short-term criminal detention to prison terms of up to five years.
It also saw the jail sentence raised from seven to ten years for food safety watchdogs that abuse their powers.
However, these laws and regulatory bodies do not seem to be enough to assure Chinese consumers, Roy said.
He added: “While they view these reprimands as a positive development, they remain cautious and there are still great concerns about food safety.”
After numerous scandals over the years, there are understandably many consumers who are extremely worried and cautious with foods and beverages, he said.
Food safety remains a top concern for Chinese consumers, Roy added.
China has long been the subject of food safety and regulations with numerous ‘scandals’.
The 2008 infant formula melamine scandal sickened at least 300,000 and killed six babies. In August this year poisoned vinegar, tainted with anti-freeze, was suspected of killing 11 people and sickening thousands earlier this year. In September, 32 people were arrested in the gutter oil scandal that involved old oil, dredged form gutters, being sold as cooking oil.