SHANGHAI - Two of the three executives from Shanghai Panda Dairy Co Ltd who were convicted of selling recycled melamine-tainted milk products last year made a case for leniency at their second trial on Wednesday. The two appealed their sentences after their initial trial last month.
The three were sentenced in March by the Shanghai Fengxian district court to three to five years in jail for producing and selling toxic food, a charge that has a maximum penalty of death.
The two on trial at the Shanghai No 1 Intermediate People's Court on Wednesday were Wang Yuechao, the company's board chairman, and Hong Qide, the general manager. The third employee, Chen Dehua, deputy general manager of the company, appeared in court with his two former colleagues.
All three admitted the charges in the first trial, but Wang and Hong challenged the term of their imprisonment, asking for leniency from the judge.
"I have fully realized the harm of what I did to society. I hope the court can take my attitude into consideration and mitigate my sentence," said Wang, who received five years in jail in the first trial.
The half-day trial ended with no verdict.
The proceedings of the first trial show that, from Feb 7 to April 21 last year, Shanghai Panda Dairy produced 6,520 cans of melamine-tainted condensed milk, half of which were sold.
The company recycled previously produced melamine-tainted condensed milk from a company in East China's Fujian province and diluted it to use in its milk products to save money, according to the verdict.
The same industrial chemical was blamed for one of this country's worst food safety scandals in 2008, which killed at least six babies and sickened 300,000.
Authorities shut down the company and arrested the three after tests showed the reproduced milk products had up to 34.1 mg/kg of melamine. Regulations set after the 2008 scandal allows just a little over a mg of melamine to be present in every pound of food product.
An overdose of melamine can cause kidney stones and other ailments, particularly in children.
The court said the total tainted milk produced at Shanghai Panda was worth 360,000 yuan ($52,700) and that nearly 94 percent of the milk products sold have been recalled.
During the trial, Wang's lawyer, Tao Wuping, appealed for mitigated sentences, arguing the products caused limited social harm and the company had done melamine tests on some of the milk products before putting them on market.
"The tests they did prove their subjective malice is relatively low and most of the tainted products have been recalled. I hope the court can take these into consideration when giving sentences," he said.
However, the prosecutors argued that before this incident, officials carried out a national crackdown on melamine-tainted milk. So the timing of their actions proves their "flagrancy and subjective malice", they said.
Prior to the case, Shanghai Panda was already on the government's melamine blacklist after the 2008 scandal, which recorded some of the highest levels of contamination. But company officials were allowed to resume production after they promised to strengthen its safety procedures.
(China Daily 04/15/2010 page4)