South Korea lifts ban on zilpaterol feed additives in beef

Almost a year after saying it would ease its policy on animal growth enhancers containing zilpaterol, the South Korean government lifted its ban on the feed additive. The move opens the door to beef imports and domestic sales of the product.

An unnamed source in the country's food ministry told Reuters the decision to lift the ban was made in late August, allowing imports of beef muscle with 1 part per billion of zilpaterol, 5 ppb in beef liver and 10 ppb in beef kidney. The additive, which is used to spur growth in animals weeks prior to slaughter, continues to be banned in many European countries and China.

"The approved levels are scientifically safe even if consumers have them for the rest of their lives," the official told Reuters

Last year, Merck Animal Health voluntarily pulled its cattle feed additive Zilmax from the market following allegations from farmers of hoofless and immobile heifers. The product brought in $159 million in U.S. sales for Merck ($MRK) last year despite being removed from the market. However, a study carried out by researchers with the University of Nebraska and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service found that Zilmax had no negative effects on cattle health.

Merck has said it would test Zilmax in a randomized, controlled study in an effort to revive the drug, though there have been reports that beef producers like Cargill and JBS S.A. have pushed back against the move.

- see the Reuters article