U.S. supports featuring cattle age on beef packaging

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON — Beef-packaging labels featuring the age of cattle that were slaughtered is being supported by the Bush administration as one way to ease tensions in South Korea. American beef exporters identifying the age of the cattle used in their beef shipments could be a face-saving solution to a "very tense and dicey situation right now in Korea," said Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alexander Arvizu. "The key would be for American exporters to work with Korean importers to come up with some kind of system, or mechanism, that would be transparent to Korean consumers. That’s something that this administration will certainly support."

The approach could address anger in South Korea without altering an April agreement that fully resumes beef trade.

The Bush administration already has said it will not renegotiate the deal signed by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and President Bush. The accord was hoped to have strengthened ties between the countries. Since the agreement was made, thousands of South Korean protesters have voiced concerns over the perceived safety of U.S. beef following reports in the local media questioning the safety of U.S. beef.

Despite the original agreement, which allows U.S. beef from cattle of any age to be imported to South Korea, South Korean officials are in Washington hoping to get assurances that the United States will not ship beef from cattle older than 30 months. Younger cattle are believed to be less susceptible to bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

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