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China: Milk Producers Executed

Chinese officials announced that two milk producers were executed yesterday for their role in last year’s nationwide melamine milk contamination scandal, which killed six infants and sickened over 300,000 in China.

Zhang Yujun was executed for the crime of endangering public safety by dangerous means, and Geng Jinping was put to death for producing and selling toxic food, according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency.

The two men were tied to Sanlu Group, a company that had been the leading seller of milk powder in China for over a decade. Sanlu had been adding melamine, an industrial chemical that can cause kidney failure and kidney stones, to its milk products to artificially boost protein levels.

Tian Wenhua, former board chairwoman of the company, was convicted of selling substandard products and sentenced to life in prison. Eighteen others were tried for their role  in the scheme, two received life sentences, and 16 will face jail time ranging from two to 15 years.

Many view the executions as a government effort to show the international community–especially trading partners–that the country is cracking down on food safety. 

In the wake of the melamine milk scandal, the Chinese government imposed stiffer food regulations and increased the number of inspections of food facilities, an effort that has resulted in fewer product recalls this year.

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