May 29, 2008


South Korea to tighten country-of-origin labelling rules for beef

South Korea will strengthen the country-of-origin labelling rules for beef sold by restaurants and catering services in June amid unhappiness over the government's decision to fully open its market to US beef.

The rules, which will be effective around June 18, will improve the right of consumers to choose the food they eat, the government said on Wednesday (May 28, 2008).


The new rules require all food service providers, regardless of size, to clarify the type of beef they are using. At present, only restaurants with a floor space of 300 square metres are required to inform the consumers of the beef's country of origin.


The new rules also require a restaurant to specify the country of origin of each cut being served, and in the case of Korean beef, the restaurant has to specify if the beef is from premium hanwoo cows, regular beef cattle or dairy cattle.


Details must be provided to customers as well, if a stew uses beef from two or more countries, an official said. This is a move that aims to prevent businesses from falsely labelling their beef and it reflects the demands from domestic cattle producers to have more transparency so that their products could be distinguished from lower-quality meat.


The official added that the tighter rules could also ease public concerns on the safety of US beef.


A business caught mislabelling could be fined KRW 30 million (US$29,146) with the owner facing jail time of less than three years. Businesses that do not label their meat could be fined KRW 5 million (US$4,858) and could also face possible temporary closures.


Strict labelling rules would also be enforced for pork and chicken as of December 22, according to the ministry.

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