China investigates 57 gov't staff for food safety cases

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Chinese prosecutors have launched investigations on 57 government staff involved in food safety cases this year, the Supreme People's Procuratorate said on Monday.

Among the suspects, 18 people allegedly took bribes in 17 cases and the other 39 people were investigated for dereliction of duty in 20 cases, said Qiu Xueqiang, deputy procurator-general of the Supreme People's Procuratorate, at a press conference.

The supreme procuratorate has focused on cracking down on food safety crimes and related crimes by government staff in recent years, Qiu said.

Procuratorates nationwide have approved the arrest of 220 people for producing and selling substandard and poisonous food between September last year and April this year, he added. They have also initiated public prosecution against 113 people in 65 cases during the period.

Investigations by procuratorates were mainly against government staff abusing power or neglecting duty to issue licenses for unqualified enterprises and those who accepted or demanded bribes.

"Dereliction of duty by government staff is often seen in serious food safety cases," a senior official from the supreme procuratorate said.

The procuratorate in the central Henan Province investigated 26 government staff members, all from local animal husbandry authorities, for dereliction of duty in a drug-tainted pork case, according to the official.

The dereliction of duty by government staff caused huge losses, the official said, giving an example that the infraction of rules by two officials from the animal husbandry bureau of Jiyuan, Henan Province, caused more than 30 million yuan (4.6 million U.S. dollars) in losses.

The two breached rules by not conducting tests of the banned additive clenbuterol, which was fed to pigs to stop them from accumulating fat, on pigs sent to food factories.

China is taking heavy-handed measures following a string of food safety scandals in recent months.

Courts in China have heard 61 cases involving food safety violations and convicted 106 criminals over the past eight months, the Supreme People's Court said last week.

Additionally, sentence terms for the convicts, which were handed down during the period from September last year to April this year, were all without chance of reprieve.

The court also vowed harsh punishments for officials involved in food safety violations.

Chinese police nationwide have solved more than 1,000 cases that "severely" jeopardized food safety so far this year.

Police officers have been told to give priority to food safety cases and bring every criminal involved in drug-tainted pork cases to justice.

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