South Korea Loosens, Clarifies Trade Restrictions on U.S. Beef

Washington - In response to a request by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), South Korea has provided the United States with updated information on its beef trade restrictions, the USDA announced November 9.

South Korea told the United States that it will remove silver skin (a membrane separating muscle groups) from its list of banned items, and will not consider cartilage, breastbone and bone chips as specified risk material.  The term "specified risk material" refers to parts of a cow thought to transmit bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) – mad cow disease.

In the USDA statement, Deputy Under Secretary of Marketing and Regulatory Programs Chuck Lambert called the changes in South Korean beef trade policy "a positive step forward."

Lambert expressed disappointment, however, that South Korea did not set commercial tolerance levels for bone chips and cartilage.  Lambert will travel to Seoul in the near future to "encourage South Korea to provide greater clarity regarding the conditions of beef trade between our countries."

Many countries, including South Korea, cut off imports of U.S. beef products in December 2003, soon after a sole case of BSE was found in a cow in the United States.  The infected cow was later found to have been imported from Canada before that country adopted restrictions on the composition of cattle feed similar to those already in place in the United States.

U.S. Department of Agriculture officials continue to emphasize that the United States has a strong, science-based food-safety system that is designed to provide maximum protection for the health and safety of consumers.

The South Korean response follows recent decisions by Colombia and Peru to lift their bans on imports of U.S. beef.  (See related article.)

The full text of the November 9 statement is available on the USDA Web site.