In the wake of so many tainted food scandals, the Chinese government today announced that it had executed Zheng Xiaoyu, the former head of China's food and drug safety administration.
Zheng, who had headed the Chinese State Food and Drug Administration from 1997 to 2006, was convicted of accepting bribes in exchange for his approval of fake medicines.
"The few corrupt officials of the SFDA are the shame of the whole system and their scandals have revealed some very serious problems," agency spokeswoman Yan Jiangying said at a news conference held to highlight efforts to improve China's track record on food and drug safety.
The government also assured athletes, coaches, officials, and others could count on safe meals at the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, and that food would be free of substances that could trigger a positive result in tests for banned performance enhancing drugs.
China performs more court-ordered executions than all other nations combined. Zheng's execution was seen as an effort to mollify worldwide concerns over the rash of scandals surrounding tainted foods and other consumer goods exported from China.
But we here at The Slow Cook are not feeling mollified. In fact, this execution strikes us as the action of a twisted, barbaric regime that should not be trusted as a source of food products for U.S. consumers. It is hard to imagine how our own federal officials and business leaders have maneuvered us into a position where we must rely for our food safety on an unregulated Chinese system shot through with deceit and corruption. Yet they have, and more food trade agreements with China are in the works.
Chinese products are flooding our food system, and almost solely on the basis of cheap price, rather than any expectation of quality and safety. This is the worst case scenario of globalized food supply and outsourced food safety, and it is sitting here on our doorstep--or rather, in our supermarkets. The insinuation of reckless Chinese business practices into our own food is a nightmare scenario, a case of "free trade" morphing into a free-for-all where the wholesomeness of products Americans put in their mouths and serve their children is the last concern.
How can Americans trust any food or food ingredients imported from China when the Chinese government finds justification in actually putting to death its top food safety official? Worse, our own government with its lax enforcement, our food industry establishment with its quest for the easy buck, are fully complicit in a food supply chain run letally amok.
The string of scandals calls not for selective enforcement at our borders, but for a national purging of Chinese products and a reassessment of our comestible trade relationships.
The execution of a top government official only compounds our feeling of estrangement from Chinese values, where neither government nor business seems to ascribe much worth to individual lives. We are not assuaged. We are repulsed.