BEIJING – China’s former top drug regulator was sentenced to death Tuesday for taking bribes to approve untested medicines, as the country’s main quality control agency announced its first recall system targeting unsafe food products.
The developments are among the most dramatic steps Beijing has publicly taken to address domestic and international alarm over shoddy and unsafe Chinese goods – from pet food ingredients and toothpaste mixed with industrial chemicals to tainted antibiotics.
The Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court convicted Zheng Xiaoyu for taking bribes in cash and gifts worth more than $832,000 when he was director of the State Food and Drug Administration, the official Xinhua News Agency said. The court then issued the death penalty, the report said.
In one instance, an antibiotic approved by Zheng’s agency killed at least 10 patients last year before it was taken off the market.
Also Tuesday, an official from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said that the recall system will be part of a new regulation crafted by the agency and will be implemented by year’s end.
“All domestic and foreign food producers and distributors will be obliged to follow the system,” Wu Jianping, director general of the administration’s food production and supervision department, told the state-run China Daily newspaper.
Concern over Chinese exports has been rising as more instances of poor hygiene and the use of banned substances are uncovered.
Pet food ingredients, spiked with the chemical melamine, have been blamed in the deaths of dogs and cats in North America. The U.S. government has stopped all Chinese toothpaste imports after reports that some products sold in other countries were tainted with diethylene glycol, a chemical commonly used in automotive antifreeze and brake fluid.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also warned consumers not to buy or eat imported fish from China labeled as monkfish because it might actually be pufferfish, which contains a potentially deadly toxin called tetrodotoxin.