According to the state-run Xinjua news agency, China’s Supreme Peoples court issued an order over the weekend stating violations of food safety that cause fatalities should result in death sentences for those responsible.

Those involved in non-lethal food poisoning cases should pay larger fines and face longer prison terms, and there should be harsher penalties for government food-safety officials who accept bribes or cover up violations.

“The overall food safety situation is stable and improving, but incidents that still occur regularly have seriously endangered people’s lives and caused strong social reactions,” the directive quoted Wang Shengjun, the country’s top judge, as saying. “Our task to maintain food safety remains challenging.”

Chinese prosecutors last week announced they are investigating 57 government officials for failing to enforce food safety standards, according to state-run media in Beijing.

Qiu Xueqiang, a top government official for the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, announced at a press conference last week that 18 officials are suspected of taking bribes, 39 are being investigated for dereliction of duty.

Qui said the agency would continue to focus on enforcing food safety laws, noting that procuratorates nationwide arrested 220 people for food safety crimes since last September.

“Dereliction of duty by government staff is often seen in serious food safety cases,” a senior official from the supreme procuratorate told state media.

Officials cited a huge economic cost to dereliction of duty in the realm of food safety regulation. A recent scandal with clenbuterol, a lean-promoting growth additive illegally used in pork production, cost hundreds of millions of dollars.