Today China executed its former head of the State Food and Drug Administration for taking bribes for approving an antibiotic blamed for at least 10 deaths and other substandard medicines.
The government gave Zheng Xiaoyu, 62, the heavy sentence in hopes of showing the world it's getting tough on food and drug safety.
This is fine and well, albeit an unusually serious punishment, but it still does not solve the country's problem in making sure the products it produces for consumption at home and abroad are safe to eat or use.
What is missing is a series of checks and balances, more inspections from overseas clients and more qualified Chinese inspectors.
When I go to the grocery store, I have no idea what is safe to eat. At least I know in North America, most companies take it upon themselves to notify customers if something is wrong with their products.
But here in China, it seems like everyone's more concerned with making a quick buck than making quality goods that people will appreciate and continue to buy. Vegetables are covered in pesticides, pork and beef may have come from sketchy environments. Even products that are labeled "organic" aren't necessarily bona fide organic. Fish and seafood are mostly from polluted waters. Even bottled water can't be guaranteed as clean.
So what to eat?
In a way it's good -- I feel like I've lost weight as evidenced by my loose-fitting pants. But at the same time, it's scary wondering if you're eating the right thing, not just eating a balanced diet.
But most importantly, after years of indoctrination or culture, the Chinese have learned not to question authority, or question things in general.
If they began to question things or double-check things more, then maybe the current situation would really start to improve. Just creating more bureaucracy and more paperwork for people to stamp isn't enough to improve the system. While the central government has the right idea of trying to make changes, it doesn't always filter down to the front line, where the chain of events always starts.