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(LEAD) U.S. admits to mistaken beef shipment to S. Korea

All Headlines 15:46 June 19, 2007

(ATTN: AMENDS lead; ADDS background in para 2, more information from para 9)
By Lee Joon-seung

SEOUL, June 19 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. government has confirmed that four beef packages sent to South Korea in early June were not processed for export, officials here said Tuesday, raising concern over the credibility of U.S. beef export procedures.

After a ban of more than four years due to concerns about mad cow disease, Seoul allowed imports of U.S. beef in late April. Since then, 697.1 tons of U.S. beef have been imported and 163.4 tons of the total have cleared quarantine inspections.

"Richard Raymond, the undersecretary for food safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, sent a letter confirming that Washington has found four packages containing 130 kilograms of beef that were sent by mistake," said Kang Mun-il, head of the National Veterinary Research and Quarantine Service.

Kang said the U.S. government ordered the meat exporter involved in the latest mishap not to handle further beef exports to South Korea, and censured the Food Safety and Inspection Service official that issued the export permit without carefully checking the contents.

He said the packages have been sent back.

The packages arrived on June 2 and were processed by Tyson Foods Inc. The exporter that had mistakenly sent the meat was identified as Iowa-based Midamar Corp.

This is the third time that U.S. beef destined for the domestic market had been shipped to South Korea. Two shipments totaling 66.4 tons that arrived in South Korea on May 25 and 26 were found to have been sent by mistake. Seoul halted all quarantine inspections of U.S. beef from June 4 to June 8 so it could determine the exact reason for the mistaken shipment.

At that time Am-Mex Service Co., a California-based exporter, was cited for sending the wrong meat shipments.

The Agriculture Ministry, meanwhile, said it has demanded detailed information on how the 36 meat processing facilities that have been allowed to export beef to South Korea operated to help determine how the wrong packages were exported.

Depending on the information, South Korea can decide whether or not to lift quarantine inspection bans in place on a handful of meat processing facilities belonging to Tyson and Cargill Inc.

Cargill meat processing facilities mistakenly sent 15.2 tons of beef, including two boxes full of short ribs, last month. Facilities belonging to Tyson sent 51.2 tons of domestic beef that was shipped back earlier in the month.


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