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China vows harsher punishment on food safety crimes

2010-09-16 14:45

BEIJING - Four Chinese government agencies jointly released a circular on Wednesday urging a "high voltage" crackdown take place along with more severe punishments for food safety crimes.

According to the document, in addition to casualties and the amount of money involved, Chinese courts should also weigh in on offenders' subjective culpability, criminal methods and the negative effects their behaviors cause to various markets, when sentencing the criminals.

Repeat offenders, principals of criminal groups and those resulting in severe harm to people or to large-scale sales, should be "strictly" punished in accordance with laws and regulations, the circular instructed.

"Those deserving death penalties should be resolutely sentenced to death," it said.

The circular also vowed harsher punishment for government officials who accept bribes and protect or ignore food safety criminals.

"Generally, officials who are involved in food safety crimes should not be given a reprieve or be exempt from criminal punishment," said the document.

In addition, the circular urged police departments to take effective measures to quickly solve food safety cases and transfer them to procuratorate organs in a timely manner.

The document was jointly issued by the Supreme People's Court, the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Justice.

Food safety has become a nationwide concern in China after a spate of food safety incidents, including food contamination and illegal use of prohibited ingredients and additives in food production.

In 2008, melamine-tainted milk caused at least six infant deaths and 300,000 fell ill after they were fed contaminated baby formula.

One of the most recent major scandals involved a brand of edible cooking oil, which was found to contain ingredients that can lead to cancer.

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