Two Sentenced To Death In Chinese Milk Scandal

by Gopalan on  January 22, 2009 at 5:11 PM Medico Legal News
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 Two Sentenced To Death In Chinese Milk Scandal
Two persons have been sentenced to death for their role in the tainted milk scandal that rocked China a few months ago.

One of the two, Zhang Yujun, was accused of running an illegal workshop in Shandong province in eastern China, producing 600 tonnes of the fake protein powder - the largest source of melamine in the country.

The other was Geng Jinping, a milk producer, convicted of producing and selling toxic food to dairy companies.

His associate Geng Jinzhu was given eight years in prison.

Zhang Yanzhang, charged with selling Zhang Yujun's protein powder, was given a life sentence.

Gao Junjie, who was also accused of selling protein powder to milk producers, received a suspended death sentence, Xinhua said.

The former boss of the Sanlu dairy, at the centre of the scandal, was given life imprisonment.

Six babies died and hundreds of thousands of children took ill consequent on the consumption of milk contaminated with melamine in September last.

In all 21 sentences have been handed down by the court in northern China, where Sanlu is based.

The most senior figure to be sentenced was Tian Wenhua, who was chairwoman of the Sanlu Group, the largest producer of baby milk powder.

When the scandal broke, it emerged that Sanlu had known it was selling toxic milk - and allowed around 900 tonnes of it to leave its dairies.

It was only when its New Zealand partner intervened that production stopped.

Tian Wenhua pleaded guilty to charges of producing and selling fake or substandard produce in December.

The Intermediate People's Court in Shijiazhuang gave her a life sentence and ordered her to pay a fine of 20m yuan ($2.9m).

Sanlu itself was fined 50m yuan ($7.3m), Xinhua news agency reports, even though the firm has been declared bankrupt.

Three other former Sanlu executives were given between five years and 15 years.

All together, 22 companies sold contaminated milk, which had been supplied by a chain of melamine producers and middlemen

The dealers added the industrial chemical to boost the apparent protein content of milk, which had often been watered down to make more money.

Major dairy companies bought the milk from such dealers, failing to test the milk for purity and nutritional value.

The result was widespread poisoning of babies, the group most vulnerable to tainted milk as it was their only food source.

Kidney damage was reported in hundreds of thousands of people. At least six babies were killed because of it.

The scandal left parents terrified and caused outrage across the country, the BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Beijing says.

It came only four years after an earlier milk powder scandal left 13 babies dead.

The government has scrambled to fight off allegations that it reacted slowly to the latest crisis, by pledging to improve food safety standards and promising to bring the culprits of the scandal to court.

Source: Medindia

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