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Shoddy Milk Seller Jailed

An unlicensed milk seller has been sentenced to seven years in jail for his role in a scandal that claimed the lives of 12 infants.

Sha Changban, who was charged with producing and selling hygienically substandard food, was also fined 50,000 yuan (US$6,050) when he appeared in the Yingdong District People's Court of Fuyang, east China's Anhui Province.

All of the babes died in the city of Fuyang.

Sha , co-founder of a dairy company in neighboring Zhejiang Province, produced and sold the infant milk powder without completing official quality control tests.

His powder was found to have caused the death of three babies through malnutrition.

Sha is the first producer to be convicted as part of a scandal that involved 55 shoddy brands across 10 provinces.

It is not known if he sold his products in other provinces.

The court also sentenced four of Sha's distributors to jail with terms ranging from four to eight years.

They were charged with selling hygienically substandard food. All of them will appeal their sentences.

Instances of infant malnutrition started increasing in Fuyang in May 2003, and inferior milk powder was later found to be the culprit.

The scandal was uncovered by the media early last year and the central government stepped in to investigate.

Members of the inquiry team ruled that the 12 babies died because of malnutrition, while more than 200 others suffered severe malnutrition-related symptoms such as developing ulcers and having stunted growth.

A massive crackdown followed, with the Fuyang government seizing more than 100,000 bags of substandard milk powder and shutting down four illegal production sites.

By December, 35 suspects had been identified as being involved in the scandal.

(China Daily January 8, 2005)

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