BEIJING - Two food poisoning cases in Hunan and Shaanxi provinces over the weekend sent more than 300 people to hospitals for treatment.
In Changsha, capital of Central China's Hunan province, 286 villagers were sent to hospitals for examinations and 91 were diagnosed with food poisoning on Saturday after attending a wedding, according to Changsha-based Rednet.cn, an Internet portal.
The food poisoning is suspected to be the result of ingesting clenbuterol, a substance used to increase the amount of lean meat in pigs, a nurse with the emergency department at the No 3 Xiangya Hospital of Central South University, in Changsha, told China Daily on the phone on Sunday.
Fifteen of the patients at the hospital were in critical conditions, including children and a pregnant woman, she said.
Other victims, though, were only suffering minor symptoms. Many of them had already left the hospital, the nurse said.
"Officials with the local center for disease control and prevention arrived last night, and I heard them say the mass poisoning might be related to clenbuterol," she said.
A staff member of the hospital's duty room said officials from the district's health and epidemic prevention station went to the hospital on Sunday afternoon and took test samples from the patients.
No results from the tests were available by Sunday evening.
The consumption of offal and meat tainted by clenbuterol can cause dizziness, headaches, hand tremors, palpitations, agitation and other symptoms. The greatest risks are posed to those who have heart troubles, experts said.
"Clenbuterol causes symptoms in several hours," said Chen Junshi, director of the Fortified Food Office under the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
"But a small amount won't lead to poisoning. Only ingesting a large amount will."
Until the lab results come back, it will be impossible to know the cause of the food poisoning, he said.
According to a notice from Changsha's publicity department, some residents of Wufeng village, Lianhua town, Yuelu district, suffered from an accelerating heartbeat, vomiting and other discomforts after attending a wedding in the village.
The sufferers were taken to local hospitals for first aid at 8 pm on Saturday.
A China Daily reporter spoke to officials with the provincial department of health, the provincial and city centers for disease control and prevention and the town government on Sunday. But none of them had new information to report about the poisoning.
Phone calls to the city's publicity department were not answered.
Another food poisoning case happened in Yulin city, Shaanxi province, on Friday.
At the Yuhe Central Primary School, in the city's Yuyang district, up to 251 children suffered from nausea, vomiting and other symptoms on Friday morning after drinking milk produced by the Mengniu Dairy Group.
Those students had been discharged from the hospital by Saturday.
An investigation team has been established, and the milk believed to be the cause of the tainting was set aside and sealed up so it could be put through testing to determine its contents.
The Mengniu Dairy Group said on its website on Saturday that it will help investigators determine the cause of the poisoning. It also said the milk products in the case have not harmed people other than the students who got sick.
The milk quality test report might be released on Wednesday or Thursday, according to the Beijing News.