China Fires 8 Top Regulators Over Milk Scandal
(New York Times – China)
By DAVID BARBOZA
China said Friday that eight senior regulators were fired last week for “slack supervision” in a tainted milk scandal that killed at least six children and sickened over 300,000 last year.
The government said high-ranking regulators in the country’s major food supervisory agencies, including the ministries of health and agriculture and the top food safety watchdog, were stripped of their positions and their membership in the Communist Party.
One of the highest officials to lose his job was Wang Bubu, chief of the law enforcement division of the General Administration of Quality Supervision and Quarantine.
The dismissals were Beijing’s latest efforts to strengthen food safety practices and hold government officials accountable after the worst food safety crisis here in decades.
The scandal dealt a huge blow to China’s dairy industry last year and also led to global recalls of Chinese-made food products, damaging international trade and further shaking confidence in this nation’s ability to monitor its food producers.
China arrested dozens of farmers, middlemen and dairy company executives last year, accusing them of violating the public trust. Some middlemen were accused of intentionally spiking milk supplies with melamine to save money, essentially using the toxic chemical as filler.
One major dairy company, the Sanlu Company, was forced into bankruptcy. Two men were sentenced to death for their role in the scandal earlier this year and several other people, including the 66-year-old chief executive of Sanlu, were sentenced to life in prison.
The punishments announced late Friday were handed down by the Communist Party watchdog, the Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection.
Regulators in the State Administration for Industry and Commerce and the State Food and Drug Administration were also punished. Last September, the chief of the General Administration of Quality Supervision and Quarantine and two high ranking officials in the city of Shijiazhuang, where Sanlu was based, were dismissed or stepped down.
Beijing has struggled to demonstrate that it is taking strong steps to improve food safety. But a four-month nationwide food safety campaign in late 2007 failed to prevent the milk scandal. 3-22-09
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