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53 now being held as toxic gelatin scandal grows

By Lu Feiran (Shanghai Daily)

08:09, April 20, 2012

Chinese police have detained 53 people for their roles in the ongoing toxic gelatin scandal, the Ministry of Public Security said yesterday.

They also shut 10 gelatin or capsule manufacturers and seized more than 230 tons of industrial gelatin, a top ministry official said in a nationwide teleconference.

Deputy Minister Huang Ming said the ministry will continue to monitor cases in Zhejiang, Shandong, Hebei and Jiangxi provinces to determine where toxic gelatin had been sent.

Industrial gelatin manufactured in Hebei Province and supplied to drug capsule producers may also have been used in food, the Beijing Times reported yesterday.

Account books found at the Xueyang Glair Gelatin Factory showed that the factory was likely to have provided industrial gelatin to several food production companies.

Song Xiao, a resident of Qiansong Village in Hebei, where the Xueyang factory is located, told the newspaper the general manager set it on fire last Sunday because he wanted to destroy evidence of the supply chain.

"They provided much gelatin to factories making ice-cream, dairy products and beverages," Song told the newspaper. "The entire village knows about it, so local people dare not eat snacks such as jelly and ice-cream."

Song said that when the general manager, Song Xunjie, read the news about the factory, he panicked and ordered employees to collect all the "evidence" and burn it. The fire broke out just as the police arrived to investigate claims about toxic gelatin aired in a China Central Television program.

In what remained of one of the buildings, reporters with the newspaper found a booklet recording trade in 2000. The newspaper said well-known food manufacturers were listed but didn't name them.

Meanwhile, almost all of the 40 gelatin workshops and factories in the village had closed and thousands of villagers had lost their jobs, the report said.

Also yesterday, China's food and drug safety watchdog revoked the production licenses of two gel capsule producers in Xinchang, Zhejiang Province.

The State Food and Drug Administration said the licenses of the Huaxing and Zhuokang plants in Xinchang were revoked for "grave violations of laws and regulations."

CCTV's report on Sunday revealed that several companies in Xinchang, a major pharmaceutical production hub, manufactured drug capsules with industrial gelatin, which contains excess chromium, a heavy metal harmful to health.

The administration issued an emergency notice calling for a halt to the sale and consumption of a list of drugs that may have been packed into the contaminated capsules.

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