The South Korean Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry said today (7 June) that inspections of US meat processing facilities had uncovered problems that need to be addressed before beef imports will resume.

South Korea prohibited the import of US beef in late 2003 after a cow infected with BSE was found in a US herd. Originally it was anticipated that US beef would be allowed back into the Korean market in late June. However, the investigation's findings are expected to delay the resumption of US beef imports by at least a month, Asia Pulse reported.

When South Korean authorities inspected 37 processing plants across the US they found that, in some instances, foreign cows were being butchered alongside domestic stock, while some facilities only had one butchering line to carve meat from animals aged over and under 30-months.

It is feared that these practices could jeopardise safeguards that the Korean Government has put in place to guarantee the safety of imported beef. In January, South Korea agreed to import meat from US cattle 30-months-old and younger, as it is believed to be at less risk of contracting mad cow disease. Currently, it only allows beef from Australia, New Zealand and Mexico to be imported.