A Chinese court doled out lengthy prison sentences this week, including a suspended death penalty, to five people involved in a clenbuterol-tainted pork scandal, the latest in a series of food safety scares in China.

The five people sentenced were found guilty of “endangering public security by using dangerous means” for their role in feeding clenbuterol, an illegal beta-agonist feed additive, to pigs headed for the food supply. Henan Shuanghui Investment & Development Co Ltd, China’s leading meat processor, was implicated as one of the primary companies involved in the scandal, according to Xinhua, China’s official news agency.

Xinhua reported the sentences ranged from nine years to life because individuals “despite possessing knowledge of the harm of clenbuterol, nevertheless became involved in the production and sale of it.”

Clenbuterol can cause a number of human health side effects including heart palpitations, muscle tremors, nervousness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills and, in rare cases, death. It is increasingly bought and sold under the table for use in livestock feed to accelerate lean muscle growth.

Those involved defended themselves “by pointing out the loopholes in pork processing companies and government supervision,” according to the Chinese report. “They also argued there was no relevant case in which consumers got ill as a result of taking in clenbuterol-tainted meat.”

According to Chinese government data, 18 outbreaks of food-related clenbuterol poisoning occurred between 1998 and 2007. The most recent report indicates one person died and more than 1,700 others fell ill. 

Among the sentences: Liu Xiang was given a death penalty, with 2-year reprieve, Xi Zhongjie received a life sentence; Xiao Bing, 15 years in prison; Chen Yuwei, 14 years in prison and Liu Honglin, nine years in prison, according to Xinhua.