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S. Korea VS America: How Safe Is A Controlled Risk?

20 March 2007

SEOUL - South Korea stressed Tuesday that there is a need to conduct a thorough examination of mad cow disease risks in U.S. beef before the full resumption of its imports.

On the second day of a high-level agricultural free trade pact meeting, Washington reiterated that Seoul must open its market completely to American beef once the United States is classified by a global body as a "controlled risk country" in terms of the disease.

Beef has become an important issue in the ongoing free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations that both sides want to sign by March 30.

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) is expected to officially announce that American beef is safe for export in late May. This could technically allow the U.S. to export all beef products, including ribs, from cattle under 30 months old that do contain specified risk materials (SRMs). SRMs, which pose the greatest risk of transmitting mad cow disease to humans, include head bones, brains, vertebral columns, spinal cords, dorsal root ganglions and certain internal organs.

South Korea countered that even if the OIE said the United States was relatively safe from mad cow disease, a separate and independent probe is needed to alleviate health concerns.

"Although the U.S. downplays the risk from bone chips (in beef shipments), there is no way to tell if the fragments are from SRM-related bones," said a official. He added that because of such differences, it may be hard for the two sides to agree on this matter in the near future.

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Source: YonhapNews


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