October 28, 2011
Animal feed tainted with clenbuterol, an illegal additive, was found among sheep in China's Shandong province, according to a media report on Thursday (Oct 27).
The area affected in Shandong is home to more than 1,000 sheep breeders, the report said. Citing unspecified records, it said tainted mutton was sold to buyers in 17 municipalities and provinces, including Beijing, Henan and Jiangsu.
The breeders are being investigated, said Ge Huaizhou, deputy chief of the county's animal husbandry bureau.
In August, breeders in Hebei province were reported to be feeding sheep with clenbuterol, and police closed six clenbuterol production laboratories in Sichuan and Hubei provinces.
This year, China has dealt with repeated incidents of farmers using clenbuterol to make meat leaner to cater to local dietary preferences.
The country is stepping up efforts to clamp down on use of the chemical at a time of rising concerns over domestic food safety as well as pressure to import meat from jurisdictions that allow variations of such additives.
The use of the additive complicates the global meat trade, especially for pork, since China's surging demand for pork is leading to greater pressure to increase imports.
Global laws vary on the use of such additives. China has banned clenbuterol and a similar agent called ractopamine, but the US allows the use of ractopamine. The US has banned clenbuterol but the EU allows clenbuterol use in non-livestock animals.
An official at a top state-run agriculture academy said in August that China may have to start importing more pork if prices continue to rise.
The potential for higher pork imports by China is attracting attention from major exporters, including the US, as Chinese pork prices stay stubbornly high.
The US exported 94,325 tonnes of pork to China in the first eight months this year, six times higher than a year ago, US Meat Export Federation data showed.
China's meat consumption is dominated by pork. It will likely consume 51 million tonnes this year, Rabobank said.
Mutton consumption may also rise slightly, from 3.98 million tonnes last year to 4.1 million tonnes in 2011, according to Rabobank.