South Korea suspends US beef imports again over banned bonesAugust 1, 2007
SEOUL - South Korea has again suspended US beef imports after inspectors discovered banned bones in a recent shipment, officials said Thursday.
The agriculture ministry said it had discovered fragments of vertebral columns, designated as risk material, in 18.7 tonnes of beef shipped on July 30.
"As of Wednesday, the goverment suspended quarantine inspection of all US beef imports," a ministry spokesman told AFP.
It was the latest of several suspensions since South Korea last year relaxed a three-year total ban imposed to keep out mad cow disease. At present, it is willing to accept only boneless meat.
The beef issue is a sensitive one in trade relations with Washington. South Korea was once the third largest market for US beef, with imports worth 850 million dollars a year before 2003.
The ministry said it could re-impose a ban on imports unless the US government take appropriate follow-up measures.
"We could ban US beef imports if Washington's follow-up measures are not sufficient enough to ensure the safety of US beef," a ministry official told Yonhap news agency.
If South Korea is offered sufficient evidence that such an event will not occur again, the government will lift the quarantine suspension, the official added.
A major US-South Korean free trade deal signed June 30 must be ratified by both the US Congress and South Korea's National Assembly. Opposition among US legislators to the pact could intensify unless the beef market re-opens.