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Simple Mistake by U.S. May Delay Beef Imports

Posted June. 06, 2007 03:32,   


The U.S. government has started an investigation to find out whether beef for domestic consumption was exported to Korea.

Since U.S. beef imports resumed in Korea after the mad cow scare, Washington is moving to prevent a worst-case scenario: another ban.

The Korean government, however, plans to continuously raise questions until the problems surrounding the U.S. inspection system are addressed. Some predict that U.S. beef rib imports will be delayed.

Swift action from the U.S.-

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) said on June 5 that Washington asked Seoul to give number and details of quarantine certificates. The Korean government issues quarantine certificates to U.S. beef importers when receiving exported beef.

The request for the certificate numbers is to compare them with what Washington’s inspection authorities have on its documents.

By doing so, the U.S. government will find out whether beef for domestic sales were included in the export, and who is responsible.

The swift action by the U.S. is part of its effort to prevent any distrust from being created among Korean citizens.

In fact, after the wrong shipment was found, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said it was a “simple mistake” and acted swiftly to resolve the issue.

“This is just a minor mistake that happened at the early stage of the beef import resumption. Beef exports to Korea will not be banned because of this,” the secretary said to reporters on June 4 (local time).

In the meantime, Washington seems to be issuing an indirect warning towards Seoul’s regulatory moves, such as suspending quarantine inspections.

U.S. beef exporters are telling the local press that their customers exported the beef, not by them.

Loopholes may be found in U.S. export system-

The MAF plans to lift its inspection suspension when the U.S. probe confirms that no other beef for domestic consumption was included in the exports. Then the import of U.S. beef will be allowed again.

But many say that the Korean government should demand the U.S. prevent such accidents from happening again.

Some consider the possibility of U.S. beef export inspectors colluding with Korean importers to manipulate imports intentionally. If that is the case, the situation will become even more complicated.

“Everything depends on the result of the investigation. If this turns out to be a criminal act instead of a mistake, we will have to ask the U.S. government for a further investigation and possibly, punishment,” said one MAF official.

If this happens again, the import resumption of bone-in beef, which is scheduled for September, will have to be postponed.

Meanwhile, the Korean government intends to assess the import risk of U.S. beef as scheduled. The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) agreed to classify the United States as a country with a "controlled BSE (Mad Cow Disease)” risk.