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Courts get tough on food safety

2013-11-19 08:52 Global Times Web Editor: Li Yan

Shanghai courts have sentenced 10 people to prison since May for breaking food safety laws, officials said at a press conference Monday.

The six cases show that the city's court system has been handing out harsher sentences to those who violate food safety laws since China's Supreme People's Court and the national prosecutor's office issued a new judicial interpretation of the law in May, said Zou Bihua, vice-president of the Shanghai Higher People's Court.

The defendants in the cases were sentenced to 5.63 years in prison on average, which the court said was a clear increase over past sentences. The average fine in each case was 3.74 million yuan ($613,981).

From 2011 to May 2013, the city's courts sentenced 27 defendants in 15 food safety cases. On average, the court sentenced each defendant to an average prison term of 3.13 years and handed out an average fine of 283,300 yuan in each case, Zou said. In one of the cases tried after the new interpretation took effect, a defendant named Ni Xiaogang was sentenced to 13 years in prison and fined 1 million yuan for selling 5,530 tons of industrial-use animal fat to a local company that processed it into butter for human consumption. Ni sold the fat, which was imported from Australia and New Zealand, for 37 million yuan.

In a case that was tried before the interpretation went into effect, Baoshan District People's Court sentenced Ye Weilu, the legal representative for Shanghai Shenlu Food Co, to nine years in prison and fined him 650,000 yuan after the company sold 334,864 tainted steamed buns to the public.

Zou pointed out that none of the defendants in the six recent cases got away with probation. "Because food safety cases directly affect the public, the local courts have adopted a zero-tolerance policy toward them," he said.

For cases with multiple types of violations, the judicial interpretation stipulated that defendants should be charged with the crimes that carry more severe sentences. The interpretation also directed local courts to consider the facts of the case that might result in a longer sentence. For example, in the case of Shanghai Panpan Food Co Ltd, the company sold nearly 100,000 yuan worth of moon cakes containing some expired filling.

"If we only looked at the sales, the defendants wouldn't have gotten more than five years in prison, according to the law. But the mastermind in the case was sentenced to six years in prison because the amount of moon cake was nearly seven tons, which met the legal criteria to give the defendant five years to 10 years in prison," Zou said.

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