CHINA: Executions leave milk scandal questions unanswered
Posted: November 28th, 2009 - 10:21am
The execution of two men, Zhang Yujun and Geng Jinping, in Shijiazhuang is being portrayed as official closure of the tainted milk scandal but leaves a lot of questions unanswered, reports a Chinese newspaper.
The unanswered questions included why no-one from the Sanlu dairy company -- which recorded the highest levels of contamination in testing of its baby milkpowder -- had been executed.
Beibei infant formula produced by Sanlu contained the highest levels of melamine, at 2563 mg/kg (ppm).
Tainted samples were found among another 21 suppliers (other than Sanlu), but the concentrations ranged from only 0.09ppm to 619ppm.
"Can it be true that Sanlu knew nothing about it? Is it fair to put the entire blame on the two farmers?," the newspaper reported in its Enlish-language edition.
The two men were guilty of wanting to make money at any cost, it said, but asked whether that absolved Sanlu for the "absence of testing procedures to guarantee genuineness of the product?".
"The food company, not the suppliers of raw material, has primary responsibility for food safety," said the Global Times. "When there is a problem, they should take the rap, the most severe punishment".
The newspaper did not mention Sanlu's 43 percent minority shareholder, New Zealand's Fonterra cooperative, which has repeatedly stated that it only found out about the contamination on August 2, last year. The public was not warned until mid-September.
Fonterra has said when it was told of the contamination, it advised Sanlu the only acceptable level of contamination was zero. But Fonterra this week again declined to release minutes of the phone calls in which it passed on this advice.
Sanlu's former general manager, Tian Wenhua, was sentenced to life in jail after pleading guilty to charges that did not carry the death sentence.
Tian's lawyer, Liang Zikan, claimed his client was made a scapegoat and that local authorities were aware of the problems at Sanlu but failed to act. Mr Liang said charges against Tian had been carefully designed to exclude local officials from culpability.
The Global Times said that as a result of baby milkpowders being deliberately adulterated with melamine, thousands of children were diagnosed with kidney stones and hundreds suffered from renal failure.