USDA Secretary Mike Johanns issued a statement Wednesday expressing his disappointment in South Korea's decision to reject U.S beef shipments. The nation lifted its ban on U.S. beef on Sept. 11 this year but has rejected the three shipments of U.S. beef sent since then.
"South Korean officials are determined to find an excuse to reject all beef products from the United States," Johanns says in an official USDA statement.
"There is absolutely no food safety issue with any one of these shipments," he says. "I find it difficult to accept that bone fragments the size of one half of a grain of rice were found through visual inspection of ten metric tons of beef, as is South Korea's claim regarding the third shipment, despite the fact that it went through unusually rigorous inspection by the U.S. exporter before it was shipped. I can only conclude that these actions are designed to restrict beef trade."
Nevertheless, Johanns wishes to continue attempts to reopen the South Korean market for U.S. beef.
"It is our intention to work with the U.S. Trade Representative to examine all options available to the U.S. to legitimately open the South Korean market to U.S. beef," he says. "Our objective is to implement a trade agreement for beef that reflects science-based international guidelines and facilitates real trade."