Central China's Henan Province court has penalized 113 people, including 77 government employees, over a chemically tainted pork scandal that was discovered in March. The chemical clenbuterol was added to the feed to produce leaner pork.
Their punishments varied from jail terms to reprieved death penalty, the provincial higher people's court said in a press release.
The main culprit, Liu Xiang, was sentenced to death with two years' reprieve on conviction of harming public safety, it said.
Liu's clandestine workshop producing clenbuterol, a (carcinogenic) chemical added to pig feed to produce leaner pork, was seized in Henan's Xiangyang city on March 25, 10 days after he was prosecuted, the court said.
Liu's collaborator, Xi Zhongjie, was sentenced to life.
Liu and Xi each invested 50,000 yuan (€5,800) in clenbuterol production in 2007 and sold the chemical to pig dealers for huge profits.
By March this year, they had sold more than 2,700 kg of the chemical that spread to eight provinces including Henan, Shandong and Jiangsu provinces, and made 6.4 million yuan (€750,000) in revenue.
The court statement said all the government employees involved in the scandal, including animal health inspectors and food safety officials, received tougher penalties for negligence of duty and abuses of power. Their average jail term is three to nine years.
Punishments for the 36 pig farmers involved were more lenient, ranging from probation to jail terms of under a year, said the court's press release.
In March, China Central Television (CCTV) reported that clenbuterol was detected in pigs purchased by a subsidiary company of Shuanghui Group, China's largest meat processor.
The report was followed by a nationwide boycott of the Shuanghui brand and a food safety overhaul.