South Korea will end special inspections of all U.S. beef imports over the weekend, nearly two months after Washington confirmed its fourth mad cow case, the government said Friday.
Seoul toughened checks on U.S. beef on April 25, when an old dairy cow in central California was confirmed to have come down with an atypical mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
“The current system of checking half of all beef shipments will be discontinued on Saturday,” the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said.
Inspectors will revert to conducting sample checks on 3 percent of imports, which is the normal practice, it said.
The ministry said the change in policy comes as hot weather is making it hard to inspect products that must be kept cold, and because other U.S. beef importers do not maintain such rigorous inspection regimes. Opening half of all packages also increased the workload of government inspectors.
The stiffer measures were taken to alleviate public health concerns that tainted beef may be imported in the country.
South Korean inspectors were tasked with ensuring no specified risk materials were brought into the country by mistake.
SRMs include parts of the tongue, brain, skull, vertebra and certain areas of the intestine that have been cited for posing risk of transmitting BSE to human who can contract the fatal variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
Seoul initially banned U.S. beef imports in late 2003 after the United States reported its first BSE case, but fully reopened the market in 2008 after long-drawn negotiations with Washington.
The farm ministry, meanwhile, said that during the two month special inspection period, it checked 893 shipments of which 276 failed to meet import standards. None of the packages, however, contained SRMs, it claimed.