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China Admits Executing Former Food Safety Chief

China's drug watchdog has admitted food and drug safety supervision in the country is poor and in need of improvement. The comments came as China executed the former head of its food and drug administration for allowing unsafe drugs to enter the market in exchange for bribes. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

China's food and drug administration spokeswoman, Yan Jiangying, acknowledged to reporters Tuesday China's food and drug safety was "unsatisfactory" and the country was facing a tough situation in supervising standards.

"As a developing country, China's food and drug supervision work began late and its foundations are weak," she said. "Therefore, the food and drug safety situation is not something we can be optimistic about."

Yan's comments came as the official Xinhua news agency reported the execution of the former head of the food and drug administration, Zheng Xiaoyu, after he was found guilty of corruption and dereliction of duty.

Zheng was sentenced to death in May for accepting cash and gifts worth more than $830,000 from pharmaceutical companies. Xinhua said his appeal was rejected because of the immense damage he had caused to public health and safety.

During his time as chief, the administration approved many medicines that did not meet standards, including six fake drugs. Zheng was the highest level official to be executed in seven years.

Five other drug supervision officials have also received sentences for corruption ranging from 13 years to life in prison.

Yan said the corrupt officials had shamed the food and drug administration and revealed some very serious problems.

Chinese food safety officials say they have trouble policing the country's 353,000 small food producers and tens of thousands of other illegal ones.

They say China aims to consolidate the food production industry, cutting the number of small firms by half by 2010, and to tighten food safety supervision and inspection, including exports.

Chinese food and drug exports came under the international spotlight after poisoned cough syrup killed dozens of people in Central America in the last year.

Earlier this year pet food ingredients from China killed hundreds of dogs and cats in the U.S. Safety concerns have also been raised about Chinese-made toothpaste, toys, and seafood.