The big news in China after I got home from this year’s China Food Safety Conference is "Pair Executed Over China Tainted Baby Milk" that is running in paper’s around the world this morning (not actual photo):

Two men have been executed for their part in China’s tainted milk scandal. Both men faced a firing squad for their part in producing and selling contaminated milk that left tens of thousands of babies sick and six babies dead.

The milk was contaminated with melamine, which can cause kidney failure and kidney stones.  Melamine is an industrial chemical used in the manufacture of plastics and fertilizers. When added to the watered-down milk it gave a false protein level which fooled local safety inspectors testing for protein levels.

Many Chinese are suspicious that the tainted milk scandal was covered up by companies in the months prior to the Olympic Games in August 2008. Warnings from parents and doctors were ignored, they say.

Geng Jinping and Zhang Yujun were executed with a bullet to the back of the neck. Geng, who managed a milk production centre in Hebei Province, was sentenced to death last year for selling hundreds of tons of tainted milk. Zhang, a cattle farmer, was given the death penalty for producing the so-called "protein powder" containing Melamine. Tia Wenhau, a 66-year-old woman, was given a life sentence at the trial. She was the highest ranking executive charged in the food safety scandal.  The harsh sentences are an indication of China’s determination to crack down hard on those involved in food safety issues.

The milk scandal was one of China’s worst food safety blunders and was a cause of huge embarrassment to the Chinese government, breaking just after the euphoria of the summer Olympics last year. Hundreds of families whose children were sickened tried to sue the milk-producing companies. But the government offered one-time payouts using money from the dairies, which prevents families suing for more unless they can prove they were forced into the plan.

I do not agree with the death penalty.  You have too wonder, however, if you changed the story above slightly by adding the very long list of names of US food poisoning outbreaks, US corporate executives, US food safety government officials and US citizens and had the same outcome, if we all would view food safety slightly differently? 

Plug in this year’s Salmonella outbreak in the United States caused by Stewart Parnell and the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), the FDA, the 700 sickened and at least 9 deaths and the PCA bankruptcy – you get the point.

  • Larry Andrew

    I guess I agree. However, having to watch what my wife experienced due to Parnell’s negligence, I would like the opportunity to spend some face time with him…maybe an hour…in a small room….just the two of us….you get the point.

  • This is a really tricky point. In most so-called civilised countries, the death penalty has been abolished. If, as Bill suggests, the executives of companies and governing bodies in the US were also subject to this kind of justice, I’m certain people would take notice. However, there is a difference between accidental contamination of food, negligence, and downright dishonesty. These people knowingly added material to milk that was not permitted and known to cause serious illness; they deliberately set out to deceive the testers and the consumers for profit. In addition, they knew that the powder would be used to manufacture infant formula. That is totally evil.
    Covering up negligence is still very serious, but finding that a batch of food has been accidentally contaminated and attempting to remedy the situation surely is at least trying to do the right thing?