According to a May 30 brief from CNN, China’s judicial system is apt to implement death penalty indictments for food safety violations. The directive is an attempt to curb adverse food-related events, most notably the September 2008 melamine tainting scandal that killed four infants and sickened more than 50,000 others.
China’s Supreme People’s Court announced that judges should issue death penalties to suspects convicted of lethal food-tainting, and increase punishments issued for criminals involved in non-lethal cases and officials attempting to protect such criminals.
Apart from the melamine scandal, Chinese food producers have also been burned with adverse events relating to spiking commodities as diverse as pork and watermelons with stimulants and steroids.
In the supplement space, Chinese sourcing is integral to industry, and despite criticisms leveled on manufacturers for using low-quality and oft-adulterated ingredients from China, cheaper commodity prices mean few are likely to opt out of sourcing from the country. Nutrition Business Journal estimates that China likely commands over 60% of the global letter vitamin supply, with substantial share in specialty ingredients like glucosamine and CoQ10.
NBJ Bottom Line
From a humanitarian standpoint, the Supreme People’s Court’s new directive is draconian at best, and certainly has Amnesty International up in arms.
From a business and quality control standpoint, the move may do less to curb quality deficiencies than expected. It’s hard to say that both Chinese consumers and consumers worldwide will trust China-sourced foods just because safety violators get their just desserts. There may simply be more safety violations and subsequent death sentences, which will go unsung because China doesn’t publish its executions.
China’s legislature also recently reduced the number of crimes punishable by death by 13, which, in effect, prioritizes food safety. But death penalties for food safety violations are essentially a step backwards in the right direction, and Chinese regulators might be better off investing more in quality control audits and best practices requirements.
NBJ will cover the world of raw materials and ingredients in the nutrition industry in more depth in its upcoming September Raw Material & Ingredient Supply Issue, and be sure to look out for coverage of the Chinese market in NBJ’s November/December Global Nutrition Industry Overview Double Issue. Follow the link to NBJ’s 2011 Editorial Calendar for more information.