Korea Halts Clearance of U.S. Beef

SOUTH KOREA - The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry on Wednesday suspended quarantine inspections of all U.S. beef imports after again finding banned vertebral bones in a shipment, it said Thursday.
calendar icon 3 August 2007
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National Veterinary Research and Quarantine Service officials show a section of spine found in a shipment of U.S. beef on Thursday.

The spinal column is considered a particular risk material for BSE or mad cow disease. The fresh violation of an import agreement with the U.S. that permits only shipments of boneless beef persuaded the ministry to prevent any more U.S. beef from reaching consumers for the time being.

The agreement specifically bans risk materials such as brains and spinal cords as well as other bones. In the months since imports of U.S. beef resumed, bone fragments have been found in several shipments, but this is the first time a specified risk material has shown up. The Korean government is in negotiations with the U.S. on including beef ribs following the conclusion of a bilateral free trade agreement, but that would not affect specified risk materials.

Minister of Agriculture Park Hong-soo said the ministry will decide whether to halt imports altogether once it hears an explanation from the U.S. and assurances that no such incident will recur. “But we can't say definitely when we will reach a final decision of our own,” he said. "We will postpone the ongoing bilateral talks on ways to include beef ribs for import until after the current problem of vertebral columns is solved."

Source: Chosun Ilbo

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