Korean inspectors fail to visit site of latest US BSE case
FRESNO, California (Yonhap) -- Korean inspectors sent to the United States to check the safety of beef failed to visit a cattle farm in central California that reported the latest case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), an official source said Friday.
Joo E-suk, head of the inspection team, said indirect contact was made with the owner of the farm through a local veterinarian.
He did not elaborate on details but said the team did not visit the farm.
Others said inspectors asked the veterinarian to pose questions to the owner with the answers given relayed to the South Korean team.
South Korean experts had wanted to visit the farm and check how the animals were raised, including the kind of feed used. They also wanted to check details pertaining to the dairy cow that was confirmed to have caught the atypical form of BSE. The dairy cow was more than 10 years old with some reports saying it was slated for rendering when it was discovered to have contracted the brain-wasting disease.
Unlike the common form of BSE, cows with the atypical type of brain disease show almost no outward signs of being affected such as being unable to stand or act in an erratic manner.
The failure to visit the farm is a setback for the inspectors who placed considerable importance on an on-site examination of the farm.
Inspectors had said they had repeatedly tried to arrange a visit to the farm where the dairy cow was raised, but were unable to make headway due to the adamant refusal of the owner.
The South Korean team, meanwhile, visited cattle-related facilities, such as rendering plants, feed factories and cattle ranches in Fresno County to get an overall understanding of how animals are raised and processed.
They checked a rendering plant to see how workers separated the brain, spinal cord and so-called specified risk materials (SRMs) from the meat. SRMs include parts of the tongue, brain, skull, vertebra and certain areas of the intestine that have been cited for posing risk of transmitting BSE to human who can contract the fatal variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
In addition, experts checked to see if rules that ban the use of meat and bone meal in the feed for cloven-hoofed animals are being observed and if there was systematic process to regulate the kind of feed given to animals.
"U.S. facilities were very cooperative in sharing information including related papers," a inspection team member said.
He said inspectors planned to visit a farm raising dairy cows on Sunday and then visit the University of California, Davis campus on Monday. A laboratory at the university confirmed that the Fresno dairy cow had BSE.
The inspectors lead by officials from the farm ministry are in the United States after Washington confirmed its fourth BSE case late last month. The discovery raised consumer concerns in South Korea with some calling on the government to halt the quarantine inspection of all beef from the North American country.
Seoul refused to take such a step and sent a team of experts to confirm scientific findings made by the United States and look into general cattle raising practices to see if official guidelines are being followed.
South Korea had initially banned U.S. beef imports in late 2003 after the first case was reported, but fully reopened the market in 2008 after long-drawn negotiations with Washington.
Government officials, meanwhile, said since Seoul only imports beef from cattle less than 30 months old, there is no risk that the meat of infected animals could reach Korea.