China bans production and sale of ractopamine

China has banned the production and sale of ractopamine, a feed additive used to promote lean meat growth in food animals, says China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The ban became effective in December, according to a document posted on the ministry's website.

Ractopamine is a feed additive approved in about 20 countries, including the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Paylean (ractopamine hydrochloride), manufactured by U.S. animal health products company Elanco, is a swine feed ingredient used to increase production efficiency and the amount of lean, quality pork. The company introduced the product in 2000.

China also has banned imported pork from hogs receiving ractopamine in swine finishing diets.

The order came after a major pork contamination scandal hit China last spring when the Shuanghui Group, China's largest meat-processing company, was found to be purchasing pigs that had been fed clenbuterol. That action prompted a national crackdown on the use of what Chinese officials refer to as "lean meat powder."

It's worth noting that clenbuterol and ractopamine are completely different products. However, Yu Kangzhen, China's chief veterinary officer, said that "lean meat powder" includes around 10 kinds of categories such as clenbuterol and ractopamine. China issued an order in 2002 to ban the use of "lean meat powders" including ractopamine, clenbuterol and salbutamol in feed additives and drinking water for food animals.

Some 113 people, including 17 Chinese government employees, have been sentenced over the spring 2011 clenbuterol scandal. Their punishments varied from jail terms to reprieved death penalty, according to a press release from the provincial higher people's court.