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USDA says South Korea not blocking Nebraska beef imports

October 3, 1997

WASHINGTON (AP) _ U.S. agriculture officials said Friday that South Korea has not suspended imports of beef from Nebraska or any other state because of fears of E. coli contamination.

Agriculture Department spokeswoman Johna Pierce said the agency’s trade officials have determined there is no ban, even though a minister of the Seoul government said a day earlier it was blocking Nebraska beef from customs clearance until it could be tested and found safe.

The South Koreans began testing beef from Nebraska after a shipment of frozen and sliced beef from meatpacker IBP Inc. was apparently found to have E. coli contamination on the surface.

The Agriculture Department is planning to send ``a small team of experts″ to South Korea next week to assess the situation and hold talks with Seoul officials, Pierce said.

In Iowa on Friday, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said the South Koreans have given no specifics about where they found E. coli or how they measured it.

``We have yet to see the proof,″ Glickman said.

In this country, E. coli is permitted on the outside of beef because the microbes would be killed in cooking. If the bacteria are in ground beef, however, they can get inside the product and possibly escape the high heat necessary to destroy them.

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