South Korea rejected a third shipment of U.S. beef this week, citing the discovery of bone chips in a 10-ton shipment from Iowa. South Korea's National Veterinary Research and Quarantine Service turned away two other shipments citing similar reasons, on Nov. 24 and Dec. 1. All three shipments were from different U.S. suppliers. The earlier cases hailed from Kansas and Nebraska.

USDA Secretary Mike Johanns expressed his disappointment that the first three shipments of U.S. beef to South Korea since the market was announced as reopened in September all had been rejected.

Johanns says it "clearly illustrates South Korean officials are determined to find an excuse to reject all beef products from the U.S. There's absolutely no food-safety issue with any one of these shipments."

Johanns said he "finds it difficult to accept that bone fragments the size of one half of a grain of rice were found through visual inspection of 10 metric tons of beef, as is South Korea's claim regarding the third shipment, despite the fact it went through unusually rigorous inspection by the U.S. exporter before it was shipped. I can only conclude these actions are designed to restrict beef trade."

Calling the situation "unacceptable," Johanns says the U.S. will 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.

"Our objective is to implement a trade agreement for beef that reflects science-based international guidelines and facilitates real trade," Johanns said.
-- Joe Roybal