South Korea has today (13 January 2006) agreed to partially lift a ban on US beef imports imposed two years ago amid fears of mad cow disease.

Imports of some US beef will resume – from calves under 30 months old – by the end of March, reported the Associated Press Newswire (AP). The country will import meat only, not bones – as the marrow inside is considered by South Korean officials to be dangerous to consume.

The South Korean Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) announced it will continue to ban beef ribs – despite this being a key US demand in negotiations. According to the AP, beef ribs had accounted for more than 60% of US beef shipments to South Korea before the ban.

South Korean agriculture and forestry minister Park Hyun-chool told the AP: “If the South Korean government determines the situation has worsened, including the outbreak of BSE, it can suspend the imports of US beef, we place top priority on consumer safety.”

Japan, which had a similar ban, recently eased its prohibition on US and Canadian beef after two years of negotiations and a lengthy approval process.