Because of recent reports of use of an illegal veterinary drug in show animals, FDA collected tissue samples from livestock that were slaughtered for food after being shown at a San Antonio livestock competition last March.
The samples are being tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for residues of clenbuterol, reportedly used to increase muscle mass in cattle, sheep and pigs raised for show. The drug was also alleged to be in widespread use this year at livestock shows in Fort Worth, Texas, and Oklahoma City, Okla.
In 1990, 135 people in Spain became ill after eating beef liver from animals treated with the drug.
Clenbuterol is approved in Canada and a number of European and South American nations to treat respiratory problems in horses. FDA has therefore asked Customs officials to be on the alert for its importation into this country. No country has approved its use in food-producing animals, and it is not approved for any use in the United States.
FDA's investigation is aimed at those who illegally import, distribute, sell, or use clenbuterol. On March 18, the agency wrote heads of state departments of agriculture informing them of the investigation and asking their assistance in preventing use of the drug.
Although no deaths have been associated with clenbuterol, the agency is concerned about possible serious reactions in sensitive individuals, pregnant women, and people with heart disease.
The agency stresses that the reported illegal use of the drug involved only show animals, which are slaughtered for food in some states.
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