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22 detained in capsule scandal

By Cai Wenjun (Shanghai Daily)

08:02, April 17, 2012

Scraps of tanned leather are seen yesterday at the Xueyang gelatin factory in Fucheng County, Hebei Province in north China. Authorities suspended operations at the factory and detained its manager for making industrial gelatin said to be used in medicine capsule production.(Shanghai Daily Photo)

Police in an east China county said yesterday that they had detained 22 people from four companies involved in the sale or production of medicine capsules tainted with chromium.

Officers in Xinchang, Zhejiang Province, acted in response to a state TV investigation on Sunday which claimed medicine capsules made in Xinchang with illegal industrial gelatin contained an excess of chromium, a heavy metal that can cause kidney and liver damage and even lead to cancer.

The report said that the industrial gelatin, processed from scraps of leather to replace the more expensive edible gelatin, came from companies in north China's Hebei Province and Zhejiang's neighboring Jiangxi Province.

Authorities are investigating 43 capsule manufacturing companies in Xinchang and have suspended operations of those found to be operating outside the law.

Meanwhile, Song Xunjie, the manager of a company in Hebei Province which was said to have provided industrial gelatin to capsule companies, was detained at around noon yesterday. Police said he set fire to the plant on Sunday afternoon in a bid to destroy evidence. Authorities also suspended the plant, seizing more than 200 tons of products.

All gelatin plants in Fucheng have been ordered to stop operation.

The State Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency notice late Sunday night to suspend the sale of 13 medicines mentioned in the CCTV report and instructed local bureaus to investigate and examine the drugs named.

The 13 drugs, mostly popular over the counter medicines, were from nine pharmaceutical companies, including major well-known companies such as the Xiuzheng Pharmaceutical Group and Gela Dandong Pharmaceutical Co. The websites of some of the companies named in the TV report, including Xiuzheng's, were hacked over the past two days and the share price of the only listed company mentioned, Tonghua Golden Horse Pharmaceutical Industry Co, fell yesterday.

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