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Northwest Iowa Dairy Outlooks

A local discussion of current science and issues concerning dairying in northwest iowa

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced Friday that the country has banned the production and sale of ractopamine, a controversial feed additive used to promote lean meat growth in food animals.

The ban became effective on Dec. 5, according to a document posted on the ministry’s website Friday.

The order came after a major pork contamination scandal hit China this spring when the Shuanghui Group, China’s largest meat-processing company, was found to be purchasing pigs that had been fed with adulterated pig feed, prompting a national crackdown on the use of what’s called as “lean meat powder.”

Yu Kangzhen, China’s chief veterinary officer, said that “lean meat powder” includes around ten kinds of categories such as clenbuterol and ractopamine.

He said that U.S. scholars first came to discover clenbuterol, a kind of poisonous feed additive, could boost output of animal’s lean meat in the early 1980s. However, major markets, including the U.S. and the EU, banned its use in late 1980s due to its dangerous side effects such as nausea, dizziness and headaches.

Later, U.S. firms developed another kind of growth promoting chemical, ractopamine, which carries minor toxicity. Currently, ractopamine is still allowed to be used as a feed additive in only around 20 countries, such as the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

The “lean meat powder” was first introduced to China in the early 1990s. It was not until 1998 that Chinese society started getting concerned over the chemical’s toxic nature when the first human case of lung infection was reported in Guangdong province after consumption of pork contaminated with clenbuterol.

China later 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.

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