The tragedy over the melamine tainted milk scandal in China continues.
Not only have six young Chinese children died from kidney stones and more than 290,000 made ill from melamine-contaminated milk formula, but now a Chinese court has issued death sentences for two men involved in the contaminated milk scandal.
The two men are executives from Sanlu Group, a Chinese firm that hid reports of deaths and sicknesses caused by formula that contained melamine. Tian Wenhua, the former general manager of Sanlu Group, has plead guilty to charges of "producing and selling fake or substandard products". She has been sentenced to life in prison.
China is responding to the melamine crisis with strict sentences, as well as production controls. According to Reuters, the Chinese government hopes to reduce the number of melamine producers:
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has circulated for comment draft production permit rules aiming to stem a melamine production glut and stop it from tainting food, the China Chemical Industry News reported.
Melamine is used to maker fertilizers, plastics and other industrial goods but gained notoriety as a cheap additive for milk and other foods. Rich in nitrogen, melamine can be used to fool tests for protein.
I do not support the death penalty. As a parent, I may feel differently if my child had died from melamine formula; however, on principle I feel such sentences will not deter other corporations from putting children's health at risk in the name of profit. Many product recalls in the United States do result in deaths, such as the recent peanut butter recall, but these executives are not sentenced to death. Granted, the Chinese Sanlu executives are charged with hiding the deaths, thus causing more children to be sick from the melamine formula, but is the death penalty justified? Is China issuing capital punishment sentences just to demonstrate to the world they take food contamination serious? Capital punishment does not deter crime:
Scientific studies have consistently failed to demonstrate that executions deter people from committing crime anymore than long prison sentences. Moreover, states without the death penalty have much lower murder rates. The South accounts for 80% of U.S. executions and has the highest regional murder rate.
Meanwhile, the deaths from melamine have not ended in China. On Sunday, a two-month-old boy died after being fed with milk formula made by a Guangdong milk company in eastern Zhejiang province. It seems the issue of tainted food causing deaths in children will not end as a result of this harsh sentencing.