China's health ministry has announced that new national safety and technical definition standards for food additives will be released by the end of 2011.

The announcement came amid police investigations into claims that an illegal additive was being added to pork.

The ministry has warned of frequent cases of the illicit use of clenbuterol – a feed additive reducing fat content.

According to China's People's Daily, police have detained 96 people for producing, selling or using meat additives.

In March, meat processor Shuanghui Group was forced to apologise after an illegal additive was found in its products.

That month, China's state council promised to raise operating licence standards in the dairy, edible oils, health-promoting food, meat, and food additives sectors.

China launched its first ever food safety law in June 2009 in the wake of the melamine scandal but there are concerns that increasing regulation may not be the answer.

Dr Weng Shihong, of Shanghai-based Fudan University's international relations and public affairs department, said he fears there are already too many regulators overseeing China's food supply controls.

"For example, compliance issues could be caused by departmental interests or incongruous relationships between a regulator and local government," he warned.