BEIJING — Earlier this year, chemical-laced pork in China caused a food-safety scandal, state media said Saturday. As a result, more than 100 people, including more than 12 Chinese government employees, were sentenced in connection to this scandal – and one person was sentenced to death, according to The Associated Press.
In March of this year, an investigation was launched into the safety of pork after several farms in central Henan province were found using the fat-burning drug clenbuterol — a banned chemical that makes pork leaner but can be harmful to humans — in pig feed. One company selling tainted pork was a subsidiary of Shuanghui Group, China's largest meat processor.
One-hundred thirteen people received sentences ranging from jail terms to the death penalty with a reprieve, Xinhua News Agency said. A statement on Henan’s higher court's website said trials involving 59 cases and 114 people had finished, but provided no additional details. Of the 113 sentenced, 77 were either producers or sellers of clenbuterol or government employees.
According to Xinhua, the main culprit was Liu Xiang, who was convicted of harming public safety and sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve – which means the execution will be delayed for two years. However, such sentences usually are commuted to life in prison if the prisoner shows good behavior.
Liu allegedly ran a clandestine workshop in Henan's Xiangyang city that produced clenbuterol; his collaborator, Xi Zhongjie, was sentenced to life.
Both men invested $8,000 each in producing clenbuterol in 2007 and sold the chemical to pig dealers. By March, they had sold more than 6,000 lbs. of the chemical, which spread to eight provinces, including some in eastern China.
Most of the remaining 77 producers and sellers and government employees involved in the scandal — including animal health inspectors and food safety officials — received convictions for negligence of duty and abuse of power, Xinhua said. Most were given sentences of three to nine years. The court sentenced 36 pig farmers to probation or jail terms of less than a year.
Known in China simply as "lean meat powder," clenbuterol, is banned in the country yet stubbornly continues to pop up in the food supply, laced into animal feed by farmers impatient to get their meat to market and turn a profit.