Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Where's the Outrage?

China executes the hapless corrupt official in charge of food and drug safety--but not a word to be found on the Human Rights Watch website. Didn't hear any condemnation from President Bush, either. Interestingly, The New York Times placed the story in its business section. Message: We don't care.

Here's the coverage from China Daily:
BEIJING _ China executed the former head of its food and drug watchdog for approving untested medicine for cash, a show of Beijing's seriousness about product safety, while officials announced moves Tuesday to safeguard food at next summer's Olympic Games.

During Zheng Xiaoyu's tenure as head of the State Food and Drug Administration from 1997 to 2006, the agency approved six medicines that turned out to be fake, and some drug-makers used falsified documents to apply for approvals, according to state media reports Tuesday. One antibiotic caused the deaths of at least 10 people.

"The few corrupt officials of the SFDA are the shame of the whole system and their scandals have revealed some very serious problems," agency spokeswoman Yan Jiangying said at a news conference highlighting efforts to improve China's track record on food and drug safety.

Next year's Beijing Olympics, a great source of pride for China, has also been targeted in the crackdown on unsafe food. Sun Wenxu, an official with the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, told reporters that athletes, coaches, officials and others can be assured of safe meals.

"All the procedures involving Olympic food, including production, processing, packaging, storing and transporting will be closely monitored," Sun said.

Organizers are also taking measures to ensure the athletes' food is free of substances that could trigger a positive result in tests for banned performance enhancing drugs. Many of China's recent food woes have been tied to the purity of ingredients, flavorings, artificial colors, and other additives.

Yan acknowledged that her agency's supervision of food and drug safety remains unsatisfactory and that it has been slow to tackle the problem.

"China is a developing country and our supervision of food and drugs started quite late and our foundation for this work is weak, so we are not optimistic about the current food and drug safety situation," she said.

Fears abroad over Chinese-made products were sparked last year by the deaths of dozens of people in Panama who took medicine contaminated with diethylene glycol imported from China. It was passed off as harmless glycerin.