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China Sentences Former Food And Drug Safety Chief to Death


China has delivered a death sentence to the former head of its food and drug administration, for taking bribes to approve untested medicines. The court case was heard as China faces growing complaints about unsafe drugs and food. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

A Beijing court sentenced Zheng Xiaoyu to death for taking bribes worth over $830,000 while he served as chief of the State Food and Drug Administration.

China's official Xinhua news agency announced the verdict, saying Zheng allowed substandard medicines onto the market in return for cash and gifts. It said one antibiotic approved by the regulator caused at least ten deaths.

Xinhua said the punishment was appropriate given the "huge amount of bribes involved" and the "damage he inflicted on the country and the public."

China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Jiang Yu, says the sentence reflected the Chinese government's determination to fight corruption.

Jiang says the Chinese government has always attached great importance to the health and safety of consumer goods, especially food and drugs, and is willing to work with the international community to safeguard the quality and reputation of Chinese food products.

China's food safety came under intense scrutiny this past month, after tainted pet food from China killed animals in North America.

In the past week, the Dominican Republic, Panama, and Nicaragua have pulled thousands of tubes of Chinese-made toothpaste from store shelves for containing a potentially deadly chemical used in engine coolants.

Poor quality food sickens tens of thousands of people in China every year.

The official China Daily newspaper reported Tuesday that the country will introduce its first food safety recall system by the end of the year.

The newspaper gave no details on how the system would work, but said any companies that failed to follow the new rules would be blacklisted from the Chinese market.