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Published : 2012-04-30 19:14
Updated : 2012-04-30 19:14

A South Korean beef inspection team left for Washington on Monday to investigate the latest mad cow disease case and the overall safety of U.S. beef.

The Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said that it may take additional measures depending on the results reported by the team.

Led by Joo Yi-seok, head of the animal disease prevention department at the Animal, Plant and Fisheries Quarantine and Inspection Agency, the team is comprised of nine members including government officials, academics and representatives of local consumer advocacy groups. The delegation is scheduled to return home on May 9.

“We will conduct a thorough investigation to soothe public suspicion (on the recent mad cow case) and check the safety of U.S. beef,” said Joo at a press conference held ahead of the departure. 
Delegation cheif Joo Yi-seok (second from right) and members leave for Washington through Incheon International Airport on Monday. (Kim Myung-sub/ The Korea Herald)

The inspection team will visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture to hear a briefing on the details of the bovine spongiform encephalopathy case found on Tuesday in a California dairy farm; the USDA federal laboratory in Iowa where the diagnosis was confirmed; the University of California, Davis, which conducted the first spot check of the cow’s sample; and the California rendering plant which managed the infected cow’s carcass.

Controversies arose about the visit, however, as it seems that the team will not be able to visit the affected California dairy farm.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture has not yet obtained the consent of the farm’s owner. But we will do our best to accomplish the visit until the last moment,” said an official at the Food Ministry.

The team also plans to examine general beef safety management in the U.S. through visits to slaughterhouses and processing plants.

The latest mad cow disease case is the fourth to be detected in the United States. Seoul banned U.S. beef imports in late 2003 after the first case was reported, but reopened the market in 2008 despite pressures to halt the import. U.S. beef imports have been mired in controversy here ever since.

By Park Min-young  (claire@heraldcorp.com)

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