U.S. Beef Could Be Available To S. Korean Consumers In May: Gov't Source

SOUTH KOREA - U.S. beef may be available to South Korean consumers in May for the first time since it was banned more than three years ago, a government source said Friday.
calendar icon 20 April 2007
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The source said a meat processing plant in the U.S. state of Kansas planned to send 10 tons of meat via plane around Monday. The processor received a permit from the U.S. quarantine office to ship the meat to South Korea.

"Once the meat arrives in the country, it should take around two or three weeks to screen the entire shipment for possible violations of the country's sanitary and phytosanitary guidelines," an official at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry said.

The official, who declined to be identified, said once inspections are complete, the local importer will probably sell the meat to local distributors, which should allow American beef to reach store shelves by mid or late May.

He said each package will be put through an x-ray machine to check for bone fragments and samples will be taken to check for banned substances, including dioxins and specified risk materials (SRMs). SRMs, which include head bones, brains, vertebral columns, spinal cords, dorsal root ganglions and certain internal organs, have been cited as posing the greatest risk of transmitting the mad cow disease to humans.

In December 2003, Seoul banned all U.S. beef imports following the confirmation of a case of mad cow disease in that country. It technically lifted the ban in January 2006 when it decided to allow the import of boneless beef from cattle under 30 months old. This change, however, still prevented any beef from reaching consumers because of the discovery of bone chips. Quarantine inspectors sent back three shipments of American beef, with a total of 22.3 tons of the product, which arrived from late October to December because of the discovery.

This measure was eased earlier in the year when the Agriculture Ministry said it will bar the import of individual packages that contain bone chips, but will approve the other packages in those shipments if no bone fragments are included.

Source: Yonhap News
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