Crack down on clenbuterol

Updated: 2011-08-31 07:53

(China Daily)

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In a "mass campaign" against clenbuterol that has lasted almost six months, police authorities cracked 120 cases and arrested nearly 1,000 suspects, uncovering a "network" that covered 105 counties and 63 cities and prefectures in 17 provinces.

Clenbuterol is one of the now-banned chemicals illicitly used to produce lean meat in animal husbandry. They have serious side effects on human health. An earlier media expos of their use in pig farms prompted the high-profile crusade launched in March.

So far, six laboratories, dozens of factories and storehouses producing and supplying clenbuterol have been closed down, and 2.5 tons of the toxic chemical have been confiscated.

This undoubtedly is a huge achievement worth celebrating and the Ministry of Public Security has every reason to feel proud. Yet, although the ministry has assured us the "actual harm of clenbuterol has been effectively held in check" we are yet to be convinced.

Not only because the additive has already found its way into the marketplace, as the ministry acknowledged. But also because we are yet to know how "thorough" the success has been, and how broad the scope of problem actually is.

In the case of clenbuterol, the spotlight, as we know, has more or less focused on pork supplies, but there is evidence that the prohibited substance has already been used on sheep. But we are yet to see proof that sheep raising has been incorporated into the campaign, which is essential for real progress in our battle against clenbuterol.

The ministry wants the public to be actively involved in the campaign against clenbuterol and report any criminal additives and has vowed to have all leads pursued and those found responsible punished. Considering the obvious fact that such dirty dealings have been conducted in well-guarded secrecy, and the profits are exorbitant, there is no guarantee the current holders and owners of the substance will not try to profit from them later.

After all, given the authorities' tested and true behavioral patterns, such a concentrated crackdown will not be maintained. Indeed, the police have already moved on to another campaign tailored to combat the "four evils".

Although the "four evils" campaign will include producing and selling illegal additives, clenbuterol will just be one of many subject to police scrutiny. And if something more important emerges later, it will be hard to tell whether they can stay focused.

There is an imperative need to find the real scope of the use of such chemicals. We cannot afford this becoming an industry-wide dirty secret.

(China Daily 08/31/2011 page8)