ZHENGZHOU, July 25 (Xinhua) -- One person was given a suspended death penalty and four others got jail terms on Monday for knowingly producing and distributing the fat-burning drug clenbuterol for use in pig feed.
After an eight-hour-long hearing, Jiaozuo Municipal Intermediate People's Court in central China's Henan Province sentenced Liu Xiang to death with a two-year reprieve, and Xi Zhongjie to life for producing and selling over 2,700 kg of clenbuterol.
Liu generated 2.5 million yuan (387,000 U.S.dollars) in profits from trading the chemical, according to the court. Xi made more than 1.3 million yuan from distributing the chemical.
Zhengzhou-based Chen Yuwei received a prison term of 14 years for selling over 600 kg of clenbuterol, generating a profit of 700,000 yuan, while Luoyang-based Xiao Bing received 15 years for selling 1,300 kg, which he made more than 600,000 yuan from.
Liu Honglin received nine years in prison on the charge of being an accomplice for purchasing raw materials for clenbuterol production.
If fed to pigs, clenbuterol can make their flesh leaner. The chemical is poisonous to humans and is banned as an additive in stock feed in China.
The clenbuterol the five produced or sold was distributed to eight provincial regions, including Henan, Shandong and Jiangsu provinces.
The ill-gotten profits of the convicted had been confiscated, according to the court.
The five people were prosecuted on charge of "endangering public security by using dangerous means."
The five defended themselves saying no consumer had become ill as a result of eating clenbuterol-tainted meat.
Also on Monday, the Qinyang Municipal Intermediate People's Court in Henan convicted three former government officials of dereliction of duty with regard to the clenbuterol scandal.
Wang Ertuan, Yang Zhe, and Wang Liming were found guilty of greenlighting the sale of 38,000 live pigs to other provinces without conducting clenbuterol inspections when serving at the animal epidemic inspection station of Baixiang Township.
Wang Ertuan was sentenced to six years imprisonment, while Yang Zhe and Wang Liming both received five-year jail terms.
In March, China Central Television (CCTV) reported that some pork producers had used pork tainted with clenbuterol in their products.
Clenbuterol, which can cause cancer and various other health problems in humans, was detected in pigs purchased by a subsidiary company of Shuanghui Group, China's largest meat processor.
The scandal caused the Henan-based company tremendous losses as immediately following the CCTV report, supermarkets across the country removed its products from their shelves amid online calls by consumers to boycott anything from the company.
Shuanghui in a latest move announced that it would destroy nearly 3,800 tonnes of meat, which was suspected to be clenbuterol-tainted, in a bid to ease consumer concern.
China has further intensified its crackdown on the production and use of illegal food or feed additives as well as food additives abuse this year.
The moves came after a series of food safety scandals emerged despite the authorities' efforts to revamp the country's food industry.
They included steamed buns dyed with unidentified chemicals, as well as the use of illegal cooking oil known as "gutter oil."