S.Korea says will continue to allow U.S. beef imports

SEOUL, April 25 Wed Apr 25, 2012 3:20am EDT

SEOUL, April 25 (Reuters) - South Korea will continue to allow U.S. beef imports after a cow was discovered with mad cow disease in California, the Korean agriculture ministry said on Wednesday.

It said it will strengthen its quarantine inspections of imported U.S. beef until the U.S. authorities provide details of the outbreak situation, but stopped short of suspending inspections, which would have effectively prevented imports.

"We have requested details from the U.S. side, as we need to determine which necessary measures should be taken," a ministry official told reporters.

U.S. authorities reported the country's first case of mad cow disease in six years on Tuesday and swiftly assured consumers and global importers that there was no danger of meat from the California dairy cow entering the food chain.

Two major South Korean retailers have already halted sales of U.S. beef on the news of the disease outbreak. Lotte Mart, a unit of Lotte Shopping Co., said it had suspended sales due to what it said was "customer concerns", as did Home Plus, a unit of Britain's Tesco PLC.

South Korea banned imports of American beef in 2003 following an outbreak of mad cow disease but eased the ban later by allowing imports of boneless beef from cattle younger than 30 months. (Reporting by Meeyoung Cho and Choonsik Yoo; Editing by Michael Urquhart)

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