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China's SFDA head executed

The former chief of China's State Food and Drug Administration was executed on 10 July after a court found him guilty of corruption and dereliction of duty

According to local media reports, the former chief of China's State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), Zheng Xiaoyu, was executed on 10 July after a court found him guilty of corruption and dereliction of duty.

The Supreme People's Court approved the death sentence against Zheng, who was the head of the SFDA from 1998 to 2005. He was charged with accepting bribes worth approximately CNY 6.5m (USD 850,000) from eight domestic companies.

Pressure has been building to ensure that quality controls meet international standards after a spate of deaths both domestically and abroad caused by substandard Chinese products, including exported tainted human and animal food products, as well as counterfeit antibiotics.

Investigators discovered that Zheng and his subordinates had abused new rules in renewing drug production licences to obtain bribes from companies. His crimes led to the approval of medicines which should never have reached the market, including six fake drugs.

One of Zhengís subordinates was also sentenced to death on similar charges with a two-year reprieve. In China, suspended death sentences are generally commuted to life in prison. Another senior administration official was imprisoned for 15 years in November 2006 for taking bribes and illegal gun possession.

The sentencing of Zheng is seen as a Draconian measure even by Chinese standards and is an indication of the Stateís commitment to halting the countryís poor international reputation regarding product safety.

Yan Jiangying, spokeswoman for the SFDA, said "We should seriously reflect and learn lessons from these cases. We should step up our efforts to ensure food and drug safety, which is what we are doing now and what we will do in the future.î

Yan added that the SFDA was working to tighten its safety procedures and create a more transparent operating environment. The administration admitted, however, that its food and drug safety record was unsatisfactory and that it had been slow to deal with the problem.

11th July 2007

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