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S. Korea, US reach agreement on beef products
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South Korea and the United States have agreed that the latter will certify that only beef from cattle less than 30 months old will be exported to the former, government sources said Saturday.

The two sides also reached an agreement in their talks over the past week in Washington to ban the shipment of heads and spinal cords from U.S. cattle under 30 months old to Korea, the sources said.

Under the deal reached after intensive talks between South Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon and U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab, the two countries will introduce an age verification system for beef products exported to South Korea to ease South Korean concerns over mad cow disease, the South Korea Yonhap news agency quoted government sources as saying.

Under the Quality System Assessment (QSA) program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington will only allow beef from cattle less than 30 months of age to be exported to South Korea, the sources said.

The South Korean government will send back any beef exported by the U.S. without a "QSA for Korea" mark, they added. The QSA program offers companies that provide agricultural products and services the opportunity to assure customers of their ability to consistently provide quality products or services.

South Korea and the United States agreed on an indefinite ban on imports of beef from cattle more than 30 months old, with the U. S. allowing South Korea to inspect any U.S. slaughterhouses linked to outbreaks of mad cow disease.

South Korea, once the world's third-largest buyer of U.S. beef, banned imports of the American meat in 2003 after a case of mad cow disease was found in the state of Washington.

The two countries reached an agreement on April 18 for South Korea's resumption of American beef imports, but had to hold the additional talks as Seoul has been rocked by protests over the controversial beef deal since early May due to public concerns over mad cow disease.

(Xinhua News Agency June 21, 2008)

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