South Korea is sharply toughening quarantine check on U.S. beef imports upon report of the first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) - a type of mad cow disease - in five years from an Alabama animal.
The Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs on Wednesday said it requested its U.S. counterpart to be accurately and timely briefed on the situation and development.
In the meantime, the government would make 30 percent of the U.S. produce subject to sampling physical check - opening up the package, defrosting, and cutting to check in detail -., up sharply from 3 percent share.
To prevent hyped concerns, the agriculture ministry assured that that no beef from slaughterhouses or processing facilities in Alabama is brought to Korea. Currently, U.S. beef that can be imported to Korea is restricted to cattle younger than 30 months with specified risk materials (SRM) removed in the slaughtering process, it added.
South Koreans are sensitive to mad cow disease, which led to nationwide protests against U.S. beef import in 2008.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Tuesday, local time, said in a release that an 11-year-old cow in Alabama tested positive for BSE when the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service was conducting routine surveillance at an Alabama livestock market. It is the fifth detection of BSE in the U.S. after 2003, 2005, 2006, and 2012.
There are 65 slaughterhouses and processing facilities in the U.S. that have been approved for beef exports to Korea. The agriculture ministry said that there are no slaughterhouses for exports in Alabama where the atypical disease was detected.
Nevertheless, the agriculture ministry said that it will respond to the latest atypical BSE case in the U.S. and take necessary comprehensive measures by considering regulations such as domestic animal infectious disease control law and U.S. beef import hygiene conditions.
The Korean government held a meeting presided by Agriculture Minister Kim Yung-rok on Wednesday to establish countermeasures and decided to raise on-spot quarantine inspection on incoming American beef from the current 3 percent to 30 percent.
The agriculture ministry explained that unlike classical BSE that can spread through contaminated feed, naturally occurring atypical BSE is identified very rarely in older cattle and is evaluated as posing less risk by the World Organization for Animal Health.
By Kim Se-woong
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