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World body to grant S. Korea 'controlled risk' status on mad cow

All Headlines 10:00 March 13, 2010

SEOUL, March 13 (Yonhap) -- A global animal health body will grant South Korea "controlled risk" status on mad cow disease, a move that may improve consumer confidence in local beef products, a government source said Saturday.

The farm ministry official said the livestock technical committee at the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) met last week and reached the conclusion that South Korea could be given the improved classification after meeting livestock control and testing standards.

OIE demands appropriate control and monitoring of the entire beef cattle-raising process -- from birth and growth to butchering and distribution -- to prevent animals from contracting mad cow, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), and keep contaminated meat from reaching store shelves.

At present, South Korea is rated as having a "undetermined BSE risk" because it had previously not carried out the required number of tests on livestock. Seoul has never reported a case of BSE, an illness scientists believe causes the fatal Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.

The official said that the decision by the committee will be distributed for review by OIE members for 60 days and if there are no objections raised that can be substantiated by scientific evidence, the country will be given the controlled risk designation around May.

"Technically, if a serious objection is raised, South Korea may not be able to receive the new designation, although such instances are very rare," he said.

He also said that because locally raised beef costs two to three times more than foreign products it may not be easy to find an export markets.

A country with a controlled risk designation can export beef with almost no restrictions, and with minor limits placed in regard to so-called specified risk materials that may transmit BSE to humans.

"The main benefit is likely to come from improved consumer perception that the country is maintaining internationally recommended monitoring standards," the official said.

yonngong@yna.co.kr
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