South Korean authorities have suspended some beef imports from the United States following the discovery of the feed additive zilpaterol in a consignment of beef, supplied by a unit of JBS USA Holdings.
Zilmax, a zilpaterol-based drug, is mixed into cattle feed and is used to bulk up the animals before slaughter. Its use can help feedyards get roughly 25 more pounds of beef from each carcass. The drug came into focus this year when Tyson Foods, the biggest US meat processor, was the first to stop buying Zilmax-fed cattle, after cattle delivered to some of its plants with difficulty walking or unable to move. Then on the August 16 this year Merck & Co stopped sales of Zilmax, however they did not recall the product.
South Korea had increased its inspection of US beef following the discovery of zilpaterol in US beef shipped to Taiwan last month. They have now stopped all imports from a work site at Swift Beef Co, a unit of JBS USA, and asked the US to investigate the cause of the contamination which was found in 22 tonnes of meat.
“As of now, we don’t clearly know when we will complete examining U.S. beef from Swift Beef Co. We plan to inspect all of the meat from the company,” said Ahn Man-ho, vice spokesman for the food ministry in Seoul.
“If we find further zilpaterol in U.S. beef or in any other meat, we will take a similar action.”
South Korea imported 75,426 tonnes of U.S. beef from January to September, with 4,697 tonnes coming from Swift Beef.