BEIJING – A Chinese court on Sunday sentenced a reporter to a year in jail for faking a television story about cardboard-filled meat buns, state media reported, in a case that drew widespread attention to China’s poor food safety record.
Zi Beijia, 28, pleaded guilty to charges of infringing on the reputation of a commodity during his trial at Beijing’s No. 2 Intermediate Court, the official Xinhua news agency said. He was sentenced to a year in jail and a fine of $132, it said.
Zi’s buns story, reportedly shot with a hidden camera, alarmed people in China already worried about the nation’s food safety and further hammered the country’s reputation as an exporter. China has been under international scrutiny for problems in products ranging from pet food to toothpaste.
The video report appeared to show a makeshift kitchen where people made steamed buns stuffed with cardboard softened with caustic soda plus a little bit of fatty pork.
The Beijing court heard that Zi paid four migrant workers from China’s northern Shaanxi province to make the buns according to his instructions, Xinhua said. The buns were then fed to dogs, it said.
The story was first broadcast on Beijing Television’s Life Channel on July 8 and then again on China Central Television. It was also widely seen on YouTube.com.
The court heard that Zi edited the footage at home and hid the truth from Beijing Television, where he was working as a freelance reporter. Xinhua said he faked the story to advance his career.
The report prompted Beijing’s health authorities to carry out spot checks of more than two dozen vendors selling pork buns – a common breakfast food in China. None was found to be using cardboard.