Beijing (AP) -- China has announced a tough new crackdown on food safety crimes and promised to order the death penalty for the worst offenders, state media said Thursday.
The official Xinhua News Agency cited a joint notice issued by the Public Security Bureau and three top law agencies as saying severe or large-scale food safety cases must be strictly punished.
"Those deserving death penalties should be resolutely sentenced to death," Xinhua quoted the notice as saying.
It also promised harsher punishment for government officials who accept bribes and protect or ignore food safety offenders.
"Officials who are involved in food safety crimes should not be given a reprieve or be exempt from criminal punishment," it quoted the document as saying.
The notice didn't appear to announce changes to the food safety law but said courts should order the highest penalties allowed.
China overhauled its food safety management system after a series of scandals that frightened consumers at home and abroad, including a problem two years ago with tainted baby formula that killed six children and sickened 300,000.
That scandal led to prison terms for dairy executives deemed responsible and a shake-up of the Chinese milk industry. Two people were executed.
But authorities in several cases this year have again found milk tainted with the industrial chemical melamine being used in products instead of having been destroyed as ordered.
Other food safety problems have included seafood treated with cancer-causing antibiotics or antimicrobials, eggs colored with industrial dye, and fake liquor that can cause blindness or death.
The announcement was issued Wednesday by the Public Security Bureau, The Supreme Court, the Ministry of Justice and the Supreme People's Procuratorate, Xinhua said.