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The death penalty for food crimes?

June 16, 2011 |  5:24 pm

Cabbage I'd agree with the officials of the municipality of Chongqing in China that fines don't appear to be enough to make agribusiness clean up its food-safety act. And killing people by tampering with their food is indeed a form of homicide. But fortunately, this country isn't likely to go the route of that Chinese city by making the death penalty one of the possible punishments.

China Daily reports that the city has made it clear the death penalty is a possibility when it comes to criminal tampering. But China already has imposed that sentence for food crimes. Two years ago, the people responsible for putting melamine in milk powder, poisoning thousands of babies in order to enrich themselves, were sentenced to death as well. Melamine, a cheap substance used to manufacture dishes and other products, falsely boosts protein readings.

Still, China has a point. Not about the death penalty. But officials at corporations who knowingly allow unsafe conditions to prevail at their farms or plants, and who sicken or kill consumers as a result, should be facing more than lawsuits and administrative slaps on the wrist. Why shouldn't they face the same criminal fate as other people who similarly harm others? I'm talking about companies with repeated violations for filth, or those that ship out food despite testing that has found salmonella or other contamination. Isn't that much the same as driving drunk?

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--Karin Klein

Photo: Unsalable cabbages are seen at a field on April 25, 2011, in Shanghai, China. Credit: ChinaFotoPress /Getty Images

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