S. Korea suspends distribution and sale of all chicken imports from US

Park Sae-jin Reporter Posted : 2018-04-10 17:06 Updated : 2018-04-10 17:06
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SEOUL --  South Korean health authorities suspended the distribution and sale of all frozen U.S. chicken products for safety checks Tuesday after they discovered harmful antibiotic residues used for animals.

The temporary suspension followed the discovery of semicarbazide (SEM), a nitrofuran antibacterial substance banned by many countries because of its carcinogenic properties, from a U.S-based chicken processing company, according to the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.

The ministry said it would launch a complete inspection of all frozen chickens imported from the United States to see if they contained any harmful substance.

However, the ministry played down a nationwide health scare, saying SEM found in American chicken products does not impose a grave health threat. South Korean imports a small amount of American chicken meat. Brazil accounted for about 80 percent of the total, followed by Thailand and Denmark.

"The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies SEM as a class 3 agent, not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans," Hwang Jung-ku, a senior manager at the ministry's Imported Food Distribution Safety Division, told Aju News.

Some 18,447 tons of American chickens imported between 2016 and 2018 will be collected and tested for nitrofuran, the ministry said, promising to carry out close examinations in every three months.

No nitrofuran has been found in chicken products imported from Brazil, Thailand and Denmark. Imported frozen chicken products are widely used in restaurants to cook fried chickens and traditional Korean chicken menu such as Jjimdak, a chicken dish simmered in spicy soy sauce.