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US Ag Secretary calls Korean protests political

During a tour of two US beef processing plants in Texas, Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer declared US beef safe to eat, saying the South Korean concerns are politically motivated.

June 11, 2008  By

June 11, 2008

SAN ANTONIO — Secretary of Agriculture Ed
Schafer toured two
U.S. beef processing plants in Texas on Tuesday, declaring U.S. beef safe to eat and calling South
Korean concerns about its safety politically motivated.

"I'm convinced the process produces a clean, safe product," he told
reporters after touring Sam Kane Beef Processors Inc. in Corpus Christi, Texas
and L & H Packing Company in San Antonio.


Asked about the current uproar in South Korea over opening its borders to U.S.
beef, Schafer told "It seems clear a lot of it is
being driven by politics…The United States stance is that we abide by
international scientific standards and the OIE standards allow all ages all
beef and all cuts for countries like the United States that have controlled
risk standing."

Schafer acknowledged, however, that a South Korean delegation is meeting with
the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) this week. "They are talking
USTR. It also seems they are working
with industry specifically to see if they can get the industry to ship what
they see as appropriate products."

Last week, in a joint news release, Smithfield Beef Group, Tyson Foods Inc.,
Cargill Meat Solutions, JBS-Swift & Co. and National Beef Packing Co. said
they would use special labels for the next 120 days to indicate whether the
cattle they slaughtered were younger or older than 30 months.

Asked where all this leaves the pending Free Trade Agreement between South Korea and the United States, Schafer told,
"We have always said the pathway to the FTA is for
Korea to open fully to U.S. beef. How this most recent
situation has affected that, we don't know yet."


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