Monday, May 28, 2007

Worst Case Scenarios: China Edition

SO WHAT'S THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN if you're a top drug regulator who takes a bunch of bribes to approve substandard medicines? Is it that you'll actually kill a bunch of people? Are you sure that's the worst that could happen? Because it's not what's happening to China's former head of the State Food and Drug Administration. After being found guilty of taking bribes of cash and gifts totalling more than $800,000, 62-year-old Zheng Xiaoyu was sentenced to death.

To death. This is China we're talking about. They're not what you'd call real big on the human rights, so death it is.

One of the products Zheng Xiaoyu allowed through was a toothpaste, found on Central American and Caribbean store shelves, called Mr. Cool. Along with its cavity-fighting fluoride, Mr. Cool also has a special ingredient: diethylene glycol, an industrial solvent used a lot in antifreeze. The New York Times has referred to it as a "syrupy poison." Well, I guess that's bad on Zheng for allowing diethylene glycol to be packaged and sold as ordinary glycerine. You see, it's cheaper than glycerine and sweeter than glycerine. So you could see how it makes fiscal sense...except for the "more poisonous than glycerine" part. This on the heels of the melamine-tainted pet food business.

Not what you'd call a banner year for Zheng. Even so, a death sentence? Wow, China, that's hard-core.

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