Two grocery store owners were given prison terms of eight years and one year, respectively, on Thursday for selling fake milk powder in the trial surrounding the deaths of 12 infants who died from drinking the fake formula.
Li Xindao, a shopkeeper in Linquan County, a rural area outside the city of Fuyang in Anhui Province, was given eight years in prison and a fine of 1,000 yuan (US$121) for selling food not up to hygiene standards.
Li was accused of selling milk powder that he should have known to be fake because of the unusually low price.
At least one infant died of malnutrition after consuming the milk powder Li sold last year. Li's lawyer insisted that Li had no idea of the powder's quality when selling the goods.
The defendant said he would appeal the verdict.
Meanwhile, storeowner Zhu Xuejun of Taihe County, also near Fuyang, was sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of 1,500 yuan (US$180).
They are the first two defendants to be tried in the fake formula case, which led to dozens of arrests this past spring.
The inferior milk powder scandal stirred a nationwide uproar. Premier Wen Jiabao issued an urgent order in late April to launch a thorough investigation into the cases in the city of Fuyang and in other areas.
At least 12 infants were determined to have died and another 229 suffering from malnutrition in varying degrees from drinking milk made from the powder, which consisted largely of starch.
Forty-seven people were detained in May, 40 of whom were arrested on charges of producing and marketing fake milk powder.
(China Daily, China.org.cn August 6, 2004)