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S. Korea's presidential office defends decision to continue U.S. beef imports

04-26-2012 14:57 BJT

SEOUL, April 26 (Xinhua) -- South Korea's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae on Thursday defended its decision not to immediately halt American beef imports despite the reported case of mad cow disease in California, local media reported.

Following the latest outbreak of the fatal neurodegenerative disease in the United States, South Korea has decided not to immediately suspend quarantine inspections, which could effectively halt all U.S. beef imports.

The decision has copped criticism that the government is not delivering on its promise that it will suspend imports in case an outbreak of mad cow disease puts public health at risk here.

The pledge was made in 2008, when South Korea's decision to resume U.S. beef imports sparked fears of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), and triggered months of street rallies.

A senior Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters Thursday the government has yet to halt imports because the latest outbreak, the first in six years, does not seem to pose health risks, according to broadcaster SBS.

The official, who remained anonymous, expressed concerns some local reports are misleading the public.

U.S. authorities have said the new case of mad cow disease poses "no risk to the food supply or to human health."

South Korea currently imports beef from cattle less than 30 months old with all specified risk materials (SRMs), known to transmit mad cow disease, removed.

Editor:Wang Lingfei |Source: Xinhua

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