Sun, Jul 13, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Candy makers fined for toddler's choking death


A California court ordered Sheng Hsiang Jen (盛香珍) Foods Co, a Taiwanese candy maker, to pay US$50 million to the parents of a two-year-old boy who died after choking on a piece of the company's gel candy.

San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Mark Forcum today said Sheng Hsiang Jen was responsible for the death of Jeffrey Jing(景樂樂), a Massachusetts toddler who choked on a fruit-flavored gel candy in February 2001. He died days later.

The award follows a trial in the US last month in which a jury in San Jose, California, ordered Sheng Hsiang Jen to pay the family of Michelle Enrile US$16.7 million after the eight-year-old girl's death. The US Food and Drug Administration in 2001 asked about 20 makers to recall gel candies from stores.

Mike Danko, who represented the Jing family, said Forcum was sending a message that the candy was dangerous. Major retailers "have stopped stocking this candy but thousands of mom and pop grocery stores are still stocking," Danko said.

Frank Revere, who represented Sheng Hsiang in the Enrile case, didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.

The Jings won the case in a default judgment and attorneys for Sheng Hsiang didn't make an appearance in court today, according to Danko.

Danko said Jeffrey choked on a lichee candy, one of the most popular flavors. The gel candies were sold under such names as Fruit Poppers, Gel-ly Drop and Jelly Yum. The candies pose a choking hazard because they contain konjac, which helps foods hold shape, texture and firmness.

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