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Death sentence over Chinese poisonings

Staff and wires

Casualty
38 people died and hundreds more were sickened after eating breakfast foods spiked with rat poison

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NANJING, China -- A snack store owner has been sentenced to death for spiking a competitor's breakfast foods with rat poison, resulting in the deaths of more than 30 people in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing.

Chen Zhengping was sentenced by the Nanjing No .1 Intermediate People's Court for usage of a dangerous substance on Monday, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The September 14 poisonings killed 38 people and resulted in the hospitalization of more than 200 others.

All of those affected had eaten breakfast snacks such as sesame cakes, glutinous rice and fried dough sticks at a soy milk restaurant in Tangshan, a suburb of Nanjing.

The victims were mostly students from four schools and transient workers from a construction site in Tangshan, a small town to the east of Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu Province.

Five hundred medical personnel were mobilized to deal with the case, the China Daily reported.

"Because of business competition, he developed hatred [for his competitor], and used a rat poison ... banned by the government to poison and commit the crime," according to Xinhua.

Chen was arrested on September 15, a day after the poisonings, apparently heading by train for the central province of Henan, hundreds of kilometers from Nanjing.

Previous mass food poisoning outbreaks in China have been blamed on a variety of causes including use of cheaper industrial salts rather than proper culinary salt.

Last year, police arrested two owners of a noodle factory on charges of lacing their product with rat poison, causing at least 89 consumers to be hospitalized.

Last September, Nanjing was hit by another food scandal when state television broadcaster CCTV accused a local bakery of recycling old fillings for mooncakes -- a popular festival delicacy -- and wrapping them in fresh crusts.

-- CNN producer Steven Jiang contributed to this report



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