China executed former food and drug administration chief Zheng Xiaoyu today (10 July), in a move calculated to counter corruption within the system and improve its international image.

Mr Zheng had been found guilty in May of a dereliction of duty and taking bribes worth around CNY6.49m (US$850,000) from makers of fake drugs.

The harsh sentence is being seen as a warning to other officials, who are facing significant pressure to improve standards after a series of food and drug safety scandals that is threatening China’s reputation as a leading exporter.

“Such cases have brought shame to my administration and revealed problems,” Yan Jiang Ying, deputy director of policy and regulation at the State Food and Drug Administration, told a press conference in Beijing.

“We need to reflect on what lessons we can draw from this and how we can have more effective safety,” Ms Yan said.

China’s food safety system has been criticised for its weak enforcement, low fines and pervasive corruption among officials.