The Korea Herald


Korea considers ban on Canadian beef imports

By Chung Joo-won

Published : Feb. 15, 2015 - 18:51

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South Korean quarantine authorities are examining Canadian beef imports, following a recent notification from the Canadian government of an outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said Sunday that Canadian beef imports here could be categorically banned if found to pose a substantial threat to public health.

“We were notified by the Canadian Embassy to Korea on Feb. 11, Canada time, that a full-grown cow at a ranch in Alberta, Canada, had been carrying the BSE virus,” MAFRA stated in a press release.

Although the Canadian government confirmed that the BSE-stricken cow was not used in food or livestock feed manufacturing, MAFRA suspended imports of Canadian beef on Feb. 13 and launched an in-depth investigation.

While MAFRA has not said how long the investigation will last, some officials expect that the quarantine alert will not lead to years of import bans, as was the case in 2003.

“The government ban on bringing in (Canadian beef) seems unlikely to last long,” a Food Ministry official said, emphasizing that this opinion did not represent the ministry’s official stance.

In contrast to foot-and-mouth disease, a common livestock illness in Korea, BSE does not spread through contact. A cow with BSE will not spread the disease to other cattle unless they prey on the ill cow, which a MAFRA official called “an unlikely case.”

Canada is the fourth-largest exporter of beef to Korea, but the volume is far smaller than from Australia and the U.S. MAFRA’s data shows that Canadian beef made up only 1 percent of all imported beef to Korea in 2014, up 0.4 percent from a year before.

Last month, about 600 tons, or 2.7 percent of all imported beef to Korea, were from Canada. In the same period, Australia was the largest exporter, with 50.3 percent of Korea’s imported beef market. The U.S. came next at 37.3 percent, followed by New Zealand with 2.2 percent.

By Chung Joo-won (