China's going to have to do a lot more than lop off the head of one bureaucrat before I'll ever knowing eat - or feed to my pets -anything imported from there again. Note that Zheng was arrested for corruption in 2005 - long before the recent food & drug scandals were reported in the mainstream media - so executing Zheng isn't going to solve the problem.
The disgraced head of China's food and drug agency was sentenced to death yesterday amid a wave of consumer safety scandals.
Zheng Xiaoyu, 62, was found guilty of accepting 6.5m yuan (£433,000) worth of bribes from pharmaceutical companies to expedite the approval of new drugs.
Underscoring the state's determination to crack down on corruption and consumer safety violations, he is the most senior official to receive the death penalty in seven years.
Beijing fears a collapse of consumer confidence after a series of deadly food and drug scandals, often linked with lax regulation and bribe taking. With more Chinese products filling shelves overseas, several cases have had international repercussions.
For most of the past decade, Zheng was the face of the government's consumer safety policy. A former pharmaceutical company executive, he was appointed as the first director of the state food and drug administration in 1998. His powerful agency controlled the approval process for all new drugs and coordinated the licensing of food and pharmaceutical factories.
According to local media, one antibiotic approved by the agency killed 10 patients last year before it was withdrawn. In 2005, the year Zheng was arrested, the health ministry reported 34,000 food-related illnesses. Given the 1.3 billion population, it is not a huge number.
The Beijing court said Zheng's crime was to have abused his position to secure benefits for himself and his family.
"Zheng was supposed to use the power given to him by the state and the people seriously and honestly, but instead he has ignored their vital interests by taking the bribes," Xinhua quoted the court as saying. "This has threatened the safety of people's life and health and has caused an extremely bad social impact."
The unusually harsh penalty may have been handed down to reassure foreign as well as Chinese consumers that the government is taking action.
Earlier this month, Australia, Panama and the Dominican Republic recalled thousands of tubes of Chinese-made toothpaste that allegedly contained dangerous levels of diethylene glycol, a toxin normally used to cool engines.
In April, the United States government blamed tainted pet food from China for the fatal poisoning of several dogs and cats. Three US states have since banned imports of catfish from China because they contained an unauthorised antibiotic.