A Chinese court has upheld the sentences of the people held responsible for the melamine milk contamination scandal that killed 6 babies and sickened more than 300,000 children in China late last year.
The trials which began late December last year handed out a death sentence to Zhang Yujun, convicted of producing and selling the tainted milk, and a life sentence against Zhang Yanzhang, who acted as a middle man in supplying the toxic product to dairies. Both these sentences have been upheld. The ruling also affirmed a death sentence for Geng Jinping and an eight-year-jail term for Geng Jinzhu, convicted in January of producing and selling poisoned food by adding the chemical melamine to milk, which made its way into baby milk formula and other products.
The former chief executive of the now defunct Sanlu Group, China’s largest milk firm lost her appeal against a life sentence for selling hundreds of tonnes melanine laced milk products. Tian Wenhua (66) was the highest-ranking executive charged over the scandal.
In a separate case, a Chinese court has agreed to hear the first civil claim for compensation against Sanlu. A number of parents have rejected a government-sponsored compensation scheme, saying it is inadequate, and does not address the long-term health risks resulting from the poisoning.
There have been reports of victims’ parents complaining of harassment by Chinese local authorities pressurizing them to drop lawsuits demanding compensation from the dairies.
In December Sanlu and 21 other dairy companies offered 200,000 yuan ($29,000) to each family whose child had died, 30,000 yuan ($4,400) for serious illnesses such as kidney stones and acute kidney failure, and 2,000 yuan ($293) in less severe cases.
The Chinese melamine contaminated milk scandal led to the recent enactment of a law consolidating hundreds of disparate regulations covering the country’s 500,000 food processing companies.
The Chinese government has since fired eight senior regulators (in the country’s major food supervisory agencies, including the ministries of health and agriculture and the top food safety watchdog) for “slack supervision”.