BEIJING - China has banned the production, sale and use of clenbuterol tablets, which are often illegally added to pig's feed, the food and drug authority said on Friday.
Clenbuterol, an additive known as "lean meat powder", has been used by some farmers to speed up muscle building and fat-burning, resulting in leaner pork.
The decision was made after a consideration of the risks and potential danger of the drug's excessive use, said the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA).
Existing clenbuterol tablets will be destroyed under the supervision of local food and drug departments.
Compound clenbuterol, as well as aerosol and powdered forms of the drug, do not fall under the ban, as they are considered safe to use as prescription drugs under a doctor's guidance, said the SFDA.
The SFDA also added that all clenbuterol supplies involved in the food safety violations were produced by underground drug factories and did not come from licensed pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Zhang Jianpeng, director of the pneumology department of the General Hospital of Armed Police Forces, told China Daily that clenbuterol tablets can cause serious negative effects to people's lungs if abused for a lengthy period.
"The drug's basic function is to relieve a cough and mainly treat bronchial asthma, but if it's overdosed by patients, especially children, it will cause side effects," he said, adding the clenbuterol tablets also can be used as a stimulant that is harmful to people's health.
The ban will not affect bronchial asthma patients who are receiving the tablet form of the drug, because they can replace the clenbuterol with other medicines that are safer, such as salbutamol and terbutaline, according to the SFDA.
A total of 989 people involved in the manufacture and sale of clenbuterol were arrested as of the end of August, according to the Ministry of Public Security.
In March, China Central Television reported that pork tainted with clenbuterol had been found in products made by Henan Shuanghui Investment and Development Co Ltd, a prominent pork producer in China.
The company later admitted to the violation and apologized to the public.