South Korea to allow sales of Zilmax in 2014

By Maggie Hennessy

- Last updated on GMT

Photo by Clemson University
Photo by Clemson University

Related tags: South korea

South Korea plans to end its ban on the animal feed additive zilpaterol early next year, a senior food ministry official said on Oct. 31, opening the door to beef imports containing the growth enhancer and its domestic sale.

The Asian state already has a zero-tolerance policy on zilpaterol-based drugs and earlier this month suspended some U.S. beef imports after traces of the feed additive were found in meat supplied by Swift Beef, a unit of JBS USA Holdings Inc., the world’s largest beef producer.

But a government risk assessment found the feed additive could be permitted at certain levels, and the move could open the door for its sale from early next year, according to the official. The South Korean assessment was done at the request of a subsidiary of Merck & Co (which makes Zilmax), MSD Animal Health Korea. The request was made in June of last year.

The controversial, muscle-building drug, which is fed to cattle during the last few weeks they’re in feed yards, was approved by the FDA in 2006, but its safety was called into question in August after video footage emerged in the US of cattle showing trouble walking and other signs of distress after taking a growth drug.

Merck said it plans to resume sales of Zilmax in the US and Canada after it completes an audit of how the product is used, though it’s “too early to tell when that will be,” Merck spokesperson Kelly Goss told FeedNavigator. The supplier had halted sales of the drug this summer after Tyson Foods said it would no longer accept Zilmax-fed beef, further raising global concerns about its use.


Cargill bans Zilmax

Beef processing giant Cargill Inc. said it would not accept Zilmax-fed beef into its supply chain until the animal welfare issues are resolved. Cargill said its ban on Zilmax applies both to beef it processes, as well as to cattle in its own feed lots.

Cargill said it will not use Zilmax-fed beef "until Asia and other trading partners accept it in their markets."

Goss noted that Merck Animal Health has also formed an advisory board made up of representatives from processors, large, medium and small cattle feeder operations, cow-calf producers, veterinarians, academia and industry consultants, which will “maintain an open dialogue” on animal well-being, beta agonist use, quality assurance, recertification and scientific audit processes.

“We remain confident in the safety of the product, based on our own extensive research and that of regulators and academic institutions, and are committed to the well-being of the animals that receive it,” said Kelly Goss, director of US and global communications for Merck.

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