Go to contents

Bone Fragment Found in U.S. Beef

Posted November. 25, 2006 08:10,   


The Korean government has decided that some U.S. beef do not meet import quarantine standards after a bone fragment was found in meat imported at the end of last month.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry investigated 8.9 tons of U.S. beef which arrived at Incheon International Airport on October 30 for the first time since Korea agreed to resume American beef imports early this year. On November 24, the ministry addressed officially to take these measures because a bone fragment was detected, which is against the agreement.

When Korea and U.S. agreed on resuming U.S. beef imports, they decided to allow only imports of "boneless lean meat from cattle younger than 30 months old."

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry reported, "The imported beef will be either sent back to U.S. or discarded and the U.S. slaughterhouse implicated will be banned from shipping beef to Korea. Whether to send back the beef to the U.S. or destroy it will be up to the importing owners.”

A bone fragment detected-

Kang Moon Il, chief of the National Veterinary Research and Quarantine Service, reported at a news briefing held in Gwacheon Government Complex: "The result from the examination by an X-ray material detector shows a bone fragment about 4mm×6mm×10mm was found.”

Kang said, "Since the bone fragment was found among the boneless part and given it was in between two pieces of meat, we assume this did not happen during the cutting process. The bone probably got inside the meat while packing. We have dispatched this information to the United States Embassy in Korea."

Concerns about mad cow disease-

According to the sanitary provisions under the Korea-U.S. agreement, importers are allowed to import meat only from cattle younger than 30 months old.

The U.S. insists expanding restrictions to bone fragments is too strict, saying that even OIE (Office International des Epizooties), a organization setting up international standards for animal quarantine regulation, concluded that bone fragments have no relation with mad cow disease.

The Korean Government, however, launched a thorough investigation after it accepted opinions of some scientists who believe that the bones might include some materials causing mad cow disease. As for this, a U.S. beef industry official protested, " Banning imports after finding a tiny piece of bone reminds me of the story ‘The Merchant of Venice’ where the judge orders Shylock to take flesh without shedding one drop of blood.

A thorough investigation will be continued-

As for imposing a ban on U.S. beef, the U.S. government reportedly has not delivered any official opinions. However, the government foresees no objection from the U.S., since the bone fragment is clearly a violation. Nonetheless, the Korean government will continue its imports of U.S. beef.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and Quarantine Service decided to continue its investigation of bone fragments until U.S. beef meets the requirements for safety. In accordance to this, the Quarantine Service expanded their X-ray detectors from one to eleven machines and decided to put them in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province as well as in the Busan regional office.

sublime@donga.com smhong@donga.com