5,000 firms shut in additives crackdown
Beijing is hailing its efforts in the crackdown on illegal food additives, with a senior food-safety official telling state media that more than 5,000 companies have been shut down and more than 2,000 people punished.
'The crackdown on adding illegal additives and on the abuse of food additives since April has effectively contained the outbreak of such cases and achieved considerable results,' the official, from the General Office of the State Council's Food Safety Commission, was quoted as saying by Xinhua on Monday.
Among the cases, 120 involved the addition of clenbuterol - a chemical stimulant that reduces fat, encourages muscle growth and colloquially referred to as 'lean meat powder' - into feed for pigs. Some 980 people involved were detained.
'The campaign should not be given an excessively high appraisal,' the official warned. 'We cannot lower our guard or rest, and we must be aware of the complex, long-term nature of the food-safety problem and remain on high alert.'
So far this year, the authorities have uncovered sales of drug-tainted pork, bean sprouts treated with a carcinogenic chemical compound, expired buns dyed to make them look fresh, and sweet potato flour made with corn, ink and paraffin.
Following rising public anger and panic about such scandals, the State Council in April ordered local governments to clamp down on illegal additives used in the production of food. It also ordered the regulation of additive production, while calling for the building of a long-term supervisory mechanism and for industry self-discipline.
The government also tried to show that it is taking action on food-safety violations. On Monday, a court in Shanghai sentenced three food company executives to between five and nine years in prison after they were found guilty of adding dye to steamed buns made of corn flour. They also sold old products by changing the expiry dates.
In July, a Henan court imposed heavy punishments from a nine-year jail term to a suspended death sentence on five people for producing and selling the 'lean meat' additive, which was found in pigs sold to the country's largest meat processor, Shuanghui, in March. Three public servants were also sentenced to between five and six years in prison for dereliction of duty.
The cases showed a 'severe absence of credibility with strong motivation for profits', the official said.
It was also revealed that criminals were engaged in more deceitful ways to avoid inspection.
'Their production and sales were extremely secretive,' the official said, noting that a chemical company in Xiangfan, Hubei, and a biotechnical company in Fenghua, Zhejiang, had rented a workshop or invested in the production of lean-meat powder.
The number of cases involved in the crackdown on the use of illegal additives in food products