New move to ensure food safety

By Xie Chuanjiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-08-14 07:15

Under proposed new regulations Beijing authorities will offer rewards to people who provide tip-offs that lead to the prosecution of those who put public health at risk.

It comes a day after a Chinese TV reporter, who fabricated a story about how Beijing dumpling makers used cardboard as a filling, was sentenced to one-year in jail.

"Main government officials or managers will be warned, demoted or sacked if food safety accidents which cause a serious social impact happen frequently in their administered districts," the Beijing Youth Daily said.

"One-third of the new regulation details punishments," said one senior official who declined to be named. "Such a comprehensive local regulation shows Beijing's strong resolve in dealing with food safety issues."

The jail sentence handed down to Zi Beijia, 28, a temporary employee of the Life Channel of Beijing Television Station, was an "acceptable punishment" according to legal experts.

Zi was also fined 1,000 yuan ($132) for the crime of "infringing the reputation of commodities".

"Fake news or news without a scientific base can sometimes bring disastrous results for an industry. This sort of news must be severely punished through criminal penalties," Mo Yuchuan, a professor with the Law Institute of Renmin University of China, told China Daily.

"Such a punishment can never right the wrong Zi has done. It sends a clear warning to those ambitious few who ignore the public's interest and sound social, economic order."

Qiu Baochang, a legal consultant of the China Consumers' Association, said the jail sentence sends a very clear message to anyone who embarrasses the country through silly actions, like the dumpling story.

The Beijing No 2 Intermediate People's Court heard that in June this year, Zi visited some steamed dumpling stalls but failed to find any with cardboard fillings.

Zi, under the false name of Hu Yue, went to the No 13 courtyard in Shizikou Village, Taiyanggong Township of Chaoyang District, and asked four dumpling stall workers to make some for him.

Zi supplied the pork, flour and cardboard. He told the workers to mix the cardboard with the pork.

Zi filmed the entire process and filed the report after he edited it.

Unaware of Zi's ruse, Beijing Television Station, aired the segment on July 8.

The court ruled Zi deliberately fabricated the story. His behavior had spread unnecessary fear and damaged reputations.

Following investigations, Beijing's health authorities found no cardboard in the filling of dumplings.

Zi pleaded guilty and said he was "muddled-head".

He also apologized to viewers and Beijing Television Station, and pleaded with colleagues to follow journalistic ethics.

(China Daily 08/14/2007 page5)

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