An NBC news article this week reveals that more than 2,000 athletes from at least 181 countries in Shanghai that are  to compete in the 14th FINA World Aquatics Championships July 16-31 will not be eating Chinese beef or pork due to continued problems with clenbuterol use in livestock. China outlawed the compound and the usage of all other beta agonists in its livestock industry in 2002, but it continues to be illegally fed to livestock to accelerate growth and lean muscle tissue.

The World Anti-Doping Agency and the International Olympic Committee include clenbuterol on their lists of performance-enhancing drugs, and prohibit athletes from using it. Giving athletes an unfair advantage is just one side-effect of the drug; in 2006, more than 300 people in China became ill after eating clenbuterol-tainted meat. Clenbuterol residues can affect lung and heart function in persons who have eaten liver or meat of animals given the drug.

Clenbuterol is a selective beta-2 agonist/antagonist and a bronchodilator. In the U.S., clenbuterol is only FDA-approved when prescribed by a veterinarian for use in horses. In 2006 several horses in Louisiana died after being administered illegally compounded clenbuterol. FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine issued a notice about illegal compounding of clenbuterol in 2002.

Illegal clenbuterol finds its way to the United States from outlets in Mexico, Canada and other countries. Veterinarians need to be vigilant about suspected illegal clenbuterol use in horses and livestock as it can cause animal health and human food safety issues. Stay informed about extra-label drug use in general to keep our livestock and our food supply safe.

Prohibited extra-label use drugs in food animals
Under the Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act of 1994, the following drugs (both animal and human), families of drugs, and substances are currently prohibited for extra-label uses in all food-producing animals, (including horses intended for human food):

  • Chloramphenicol
  • Clenbuterol
  • Diethylstilbestrol (DES)
  • Dimetridazole
  • Ipronidazole and other nitroimidazoles
  • Furazolidone, Nitrofurazone, other nitrofurans
  • Sulfonamide drugs in lactating dairy cattle (except approved use of sulfadimethoxine, sulfabromomethazine, and sulfaethoxypyridazine)
  • Fluoroquinolones
  • Glycopeptides

Read more about extra-label drug use here.