For the last several years, I have been a prime sponsor of the China International Food Safety & Quality (CIFSQ) Conference + Expo. So, I have more than a passing interest in China’s food safety endeavors. I also find it fascinating how different countries deal with both civil and criminal liability. Recently, China jailed a consumer (father of a child sickened in a milk scandal), yet also put a milk producer to death. Now there is another food issue and legal impacts.
Clenbuterol (a carcinogenic chemical), also known in China as “lean meat powder,” although banned in the country it stubbornly continues to pop up in the Chinese food supply, laced into animal feed by farmers impatient to get their meat to market and turn a profit. Clenbuterol can cause nausea, dizziness, headaches and heart palpitations in humans, but Chinese pig farmers like to use it because it yields leaner meat, which is more expensive than fatty meat.
According to press reports, a Chinese court recently convicted six butchers of harming public safety by knowingly selling tainted pork and sentenced them to up to four years in prison. They were also each fined up to $8000. The tainted pork scandal surfaced in March 2011 after traces of clenbuterol were found in live pigs in numerous slaughterhouses in agricultural producing regions.
This brings to 113 people, including 77 government employees, who have been jailed in connection with the scandal.
Earlier this year China’s top court ordered that capital punishment be used for food safety crimes that result in fatalities.
Here are a few wise words from the opening of the food safety conference:
“Food is essential, and safety should be a top priority. Food safety is closely related to people’s lives and health, economic development and social harmony. We must create a food safety system of self-disciplined food companies with integrity, effective government supervision and broad public support to improve overall food safety.”
Vice Premier Li Keqiang, Head of the National Food Safety Commission, State Council, P.R.C
What can we learn from China?