Play by the rulesVertebral columns, a specified risk material, have been discovered in shipments of U.S. beef. The Korean government suspended quarantine inspections of U.S. beef on Wednesday and asked the United States to investigate and make sure that there is no recurrence. It is natural for Korea to take these steps.
But it would be too hasty for Korea to stop all U.S. beef imports just because pieces of cattle spine were found during a quarantine inspection. But if the United States keeps breaking the hygiene standards for beef imports previously agreed to by Seoul and Washington, imports from the U.S. will have to be stopped. We urge the United States to respond to this case with its best and most sincere efforts.
In April the Korean and U.S. governments agreed that Korea will import boneless beef from cattle under 30 months old and and that the beef must not contain any substances which could potentially cause mad cow disease, such as brains, backbones, intestines and bone marrow.
However, in May, the World Organization for Animal Heath classified the United States as a controlled risk country for mad cow disease. The U.S. has since demanded that Korea ease the terms for beef imports, saying that the United States now has mad cow disease under control.
During negotiations toward a free trade agreement, the United States talked as if a revision in Korea’s rules for beef imports was a prerequisite. The Korean government has been working to rewrite the terms for U.S. beef imports so that it can import ribs from the United States in the future.
But until the terms are revised, the U.S. must abide by the current terms. The U.S. promised to export boneless beef to Korea. Thus, the beef must not contain any bone chips. But after beef imports resumed, the United States violated the terms several times. Bone chips were found in shipments and boxes of ribs for U.S. domestic sales were sent to Korea by mistake. Now back bones, which are categorized as a risk material, have been found in shipments.
Korean consumers have had a positive response to the resumption of U.S. beef imports. But if the United States’ quarantine inspection for beef is not strict enough, it will be hard to persuade the Korean people to import more U.S. beef.
The United States must do its best to meet the current terms for Korean beef imports and hygiene before it demands that Korea open its doors more widely to U.S. beef.