Last month, two of South Korea’s biggest retailers halted sales of US beef after the discovery of “mad cow” in the US.
As a result, South Korean authorities said they will increase checks on beef imports from the US, where in 2011, South Korea imported 107,000 tonnes of beef from the US.
Lotte Mart and Home Plus have temporarily suspended sales at their stores. Home Plus, the third-largest South Korean retailer, is a subsidiary of UK firm Tesco.
“We are gathering all the information regarding the mad cow disease and are evaluating how to respond to the situation,” an official at the ministry for food, agriculture, forestry and fisheries in Seoul told the BBC.
The cow was discovered at a rendering facility run by Baker Commodities in Hanford, California, when the company selected the cow for random sampling. The USDA said the two offspring of that cow tested negative for mad cow.
However, ABC News claims the USDA has not found the original herd members of the infected cow, so they have not been tested.
The infected cow was the fourth ever to be discovered in the U.S. Bruce Akey, director of the New York State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Cornell University, characterized this event as merely “just a random mutation that happens every once in a great while”.
The first outbreak of mad cow, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) hit the US in 2003. At that time, South Korea banned all imports of American beef.
No humans have allegedly been infected with mad cow in the U.S., because patients that were diagnosed in the United States were supposedly infected while they resided elsewhere, but the disease may also have never been correctly diagnosed.
If infected from eating meat contaminated with BSE, the disease manifests in humans as a progressive neurological or psychiatric disorder with symptoms that include dementia, seizure, unusual sensory symptoms, dizziness, or progressive unusual mood changes.
The illness usually lasts 14 months, and the disease is always fatal.
As of last year, “221 cases of probable vCJD had been reported. This includes 172 in the United Kingdom, 25 in France, five in Spain, four in Ireland and three in the United States, with a smattering of cases in other countries around the world.”
A Mercury News report adds that consumer groups argue many of America’s key meat safety standards are weaker than rules in Europe, Japan and other countries — and that attempts to strengthen them have been blocked by the meat and ranching industries.
Inferior US Safety Standards
According to consumer groups:
* The number of animals in the U.S. tested each year for mad cow disease is inadequate.
* The nation lacks a mandatory federal system to identify and track every cow.
* There are too many gaps in regulations affecting the quality of the feed that livestock eat.
“This shows the need for significant reform,” said Michael Hansen, a senior scientist with Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports magazine. “They need to take this seriously.”