A severe warning about corruption has been issued in China after a series of health scandals. The country’s former drug and food safety chief has been executed for taking hundreds of thousands of euros worth of bribes. This is the first time since 2000 that China has sentenced to death such a high ranking official.
Prosecutors say eight companies were involved in the bribing scandal. They say 170,000 drug-making licences approved during Zheng Xiayu’s time in office are now being reviewed. The scandal came to light after numerous health alerts, including the death of 11 people last year after receiving injections.
An antibiotic also had to be taken off the market because of its harmful side effects. In 2004, 13 babies died of malnutrition after being fed powder milk that lacked vital ingredients. The scandals have shattered confidence in drug companies within China, but there has also been fall-out overseas.
In March this year, US authorities discovered that wheat gluten in pet food contained a chemical normally used in fertilisers and plastics. They quickly traced the wheat gluten back to a company in China. Numerous products were immediately taken off the shelves. Experts linked the products to the deaths of 16 pets but said hundreds or even thousands of animals could have been affected.
Another worrying case affected Costa Rica, Panama and the Dominican Republic in May of this year. Toothpaste from China was found to contain a chemical commonly used in anti-freeze and brake fluid. Admitting that it has a problem with fake or shoddy products, China has promised to do all it can to improve food and drug safety. Today’s execution is seen as a clear warning to officials who are breaking new regulations.