China has been cracking down on the illegal manufacture and sale of clenbuterol, a banned drug that has been used as a  additive in hog feed to encourage lean tissue deposition, according to the state-run China Daily newspaper.

The additive promotes muscle growth and makes pork more lean, which consumers prefer, but is harmful to humans.

Many countries, including the United States, have long ago banned the use of clenbuterol in swine and other food animals. The European Union allows clenbuterol use in non-livestock animals.

Police in China have arrested nearly 1,000 people, seized 2.5 metric tons of the drug, and closed six production laboratories in Sichuan and Hubei provinces over the last six months, the news report said.

The issue surfaced back in March and has picked up steam in recent months. At that point, the country's largest meat processor, Henan Shuanghui Group, was forced to apologize after some of its pork products were found to contain clenbuterol. The Chinese government has since made its actions on the drug's use much higher-profile. 

This all comes at a time when China's pork prices had been rising and pushing the country's food inflation up along with it. With pork being the most consumed meat in the country, the Chinese government doesn't want to see pork prices or food inflation rise too much. The country had been increasing pork imports a bit in recent months to temper food prices.

China in fact, has banned the use of clenbuterol, as well as ractopamine. The United States and several other countries allow the use of ractopamine.

Source: Chuin-Wei Yap, Dow Jones Newswires