Mislabelled US Beef Sends Shock Waves in Korea

SOUTH KOREA - Recent reports have claimed that a South Korean hypermarket has been caught selling American beef products under an Australian label, leading to further public uproar.
calendar icon 18 June 2008
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According to the reports, two officials from the South Korean National Agricultural Products Quality Management Service stormed into the Guwol branch of hypermarket chain Homever in Incheon on Sunday, acting on a tip that the retailer was selling U.S. beef marked as something else.

The label of seasoned beef products on display at the store read "Australian", but pressed by the inspectors, clerks admitted that it was in fact American, reported Chosun, today.

The news agency says that the Homever deception has shocked Korean consumers amid the public uproar over the safety of U.S. beef. As the deceit was learned only through a tip-off, people are worried that mislabeled U.S. beef might still be sold elsewhere.

"Even if the ongoing additional beef talks strike a deal and only beef from U.S. cattle younger than 30 months is imported, Korean consumers may likely avoid American beef altogether for some time." The report said. "This raises concerns that restaurants and meat sellers might distort their beef's true country of origin."

The inspectors found 54 kg of packaged U.S. beef in Homever's frozen warehouse, confirmed as meat from U.S. cattle less than 30 months old that arrived at Busan port on Sept. 28, 2007 and hit the market four days later. The meat was distributed two days before Oct. 4 when inspections were halted on U.S. beef imports after backbone chips were discovered. Its expiry date was July 21, less than a month away. A sales clerk reportedly said that what they did was "inevitable" as U.S. beef had not been selling at all since May and the expiry date was fast approaching.

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