US food group Cargill said today (16 July) that China has banned the company’s pork products for containing a leanness-enhancing feed additive that it is not approved for use in the country.

Cargill was among a number of US meat processors hit with an import ban by China late last week.

Products from US firms including Tyson Foods and Cargill have been blocked from entering China after checks from China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

A Cargill spokesman told just-food (16 July) that although the enhancer – ractopamine – is widely used in the US, Chinese authorities have not approved its use.

“Although China has not approved it, we understand that the manufacturer of it has been seeking those approvals,” the spokesman said.

He added that ractopamine is commonly used in the US in hog production to convert feed into lean meat versus fat and has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

A spokesman for Tyson Foods insisted that the company had yet to receive any official notification from the Chinese authorities. “The only information we’ve seen is that based on media reports. We’re still in the process of gathering up facts to see what, if anything, has transpired.”

The bans come after months of focus on the standard of food in China and on Chinese food exports to the US. A number of food safety scares linked to Chinese imports have raised the profile of food safety issues, prompting recalls and government investigations in both China and the US.

The US had turned up the pressure on China, asking Beijing to toughen up its food safety standards. China, meanwhile, has criticised the media for stoking up fear over the safety of Chinese products.

Nevertheless, in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics next year, China has been quick to show the world that it is taking food safety seriously.

Last week, China executed the former head of its food and drug watchdog for bribery and said it is stepping up the supervision of food safety in response to growing international concern. Beijing has closed down 180 food factories making fake and poor quality products.