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Camel meat, milk not distributed in Korea

Camel food products are not imported into or distributed in South Korea, the agriculture ministry said Tuesday, amid criticism over the government's seemingly unrealistic advice on shunning camel meat and milk consumption to avoid Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.

Since the first outbreak of the acute respiratory illness on May 20, South Korea has emerged as the world's second-most MERS-infected country after Saudi Arabia, with the number of infections hitting 95. Seven deaths have been reported.

The government had released policy messages in efforts to mitigate public concern and prevent further spread of the deadly respiratory disease, but they were carped for their ineffectiveness considering the scarcity of camel food products around the world.

The presidential office acknowledged its rarity, noting in a March press release how President Park Geun-hye had been served camel meat during her luncheon with the Abu Dhabi crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in a gesture of "the most cordial welcome."

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said that camel meat and milk have not been shipped to the country as they are not labeled as livestock products eligible for sale and distribution.

According to the state quarantine agency, there are currently 46 camels in zoos and entertainment facilities across the country. They have mostly been born in the country with the exception of a camel that was imported from Australia.

The camels, which had once been quarantined in their respective homes amid the MERS scare, have all tested negative for the viral disease. (Yonhap)