South Korea suspends U.S. beef imports from Greeley plant

Oct 11, 2013

Last week, South Korea suspended imports of beef from Swift Beef Company after finding the cattle feed additive zilpaterol in a shipment.

Swift, a JBS USA Holdings company, accounted for 5.8 percent of the 75,426 metric tons of beef imported by South Korea from the U.S. in the first nine months of this year, Bloomberg reported.

The substance, which is banned in South Korea, was found in a 22-metric ton shipment from the Greeley, CO-based company on Sept. 24, South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said. South Korea has asked the U.S. to investigate the cause of the contamination.

United States Meat Export Federation (USMEF) announced it is seeking information on the steps necessary for Swift—and any U.S. plants that may be delisted for similar reasons—to be reinstated. At this time, the delisted plant is the only U.S. facility that will see formal changes in the manner in which its shipments are inspected. Product from the delisted plant that is already en route to Korea may still enter the market, but only after it is subject to 100 percent laboratory testing.

Shipments from all other U.S. establishments will still be subject to routine sensory inspection procedures, according to US MEF. Exporters are reminded, however, that while Korea has adopted a maximum residue level (MRL) for ractopamine, no MRL is in place for zilpaterol.

Because of the heightened level of attention surrounding this issue and the news coverage it has received in Korea, exporters are advised to carefully monitor all beef shipments to Korea and work closely with their importers to ensure clearance into the market.

The U.S.’ August fallout with the Zilmax product, also known as zilpaterol, allowed Tyson Foods Inc. and Cargill Inc. to stop purchasing animals fed the product.

Food processor JBS said in a statement that they are working with the U.S. and South Korean governments to address the rejection of the beef.

The company’s ability to obtain definitive information about the rejection has been hampered by the partial shutdown of the U.S. government and a lack of an official rejection notice from South Korea, spokesman Cameron Bruett said.

“Importantly, this is not a food safety issue,” he said. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor