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Unsafe capsule makers given terms in prison

(Shanghai Daily)

10:25, November 08, 2012

FIVE officials and workers at an unlicensed factory in Jiangxi Province were given jail terms ranging from six months to two years yesterday for making and selling unsafe capsules with a value of 320,408 yuan (US$51,329).

The Hengtai drug capsule plant in October 2011 purchased 3,000 kilograms of inedible, industrial gelatin and 1,370 kilograms of capsule rejects from other factories to cut costs two months after its production license expired, the Chongren County People's Court heard. The company made capsules for use by drug makers.

By March, the plant had produced nearly 4,775 kilograms of capsules containing an excess of chromium, a heavy metal that can cause cancer, and other toxic chemicals and sold 2,180 kilograms in northeast Liaoning Province, earning 151,200 yuan, Legal Daily reported.

The capsules never made it to consumers and were destroyed, officials said.

To win the trust of buyers, the sales manager of the illegal plant, Pan Kuancan, obtained package samples with registered numbers from his sister-in-law Wang Xiaoling, a worker in Huaxing, a legal factory. Wang is being charged separately, officials said.

Pan then packed his capsules in the packages and promoted them under the name of Huaxing, the court said.

The local drug watchdog raided the illegal factory in April, seizing nearly 2,600 kilograms of materials.

Pan asked a worker to break into the sealed workshop to move 200 kilograms of industrial gelatin, the court heard. It was then sold to a pig feeder, but was confiscated before it was used, officials said.

The newspaper said that since the five pleaded guilty and no one was poisoned, they received lighter sentences than they would have otherwise.

Pan was given two years in prison and the factory owner, Le Bao'e received 18 months.

In April, a China Central Television report revealed that several companies had manufactured drug capsules using industrial gelatin. The gelatin was found to have been made from leather scraps and not fit for human consumption.

The State Food and Drug Administration launched national inspections. In May, it said 254 pharmaceutical firms, or 12.7 percent of all capsule makers in the country, were found to be making unsafe drug capsules. A total of 76 officials have been punished in the scandal, the administration said in August.
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