In South Korea, more than 75 tonnes of US beef was passed off as coming from other countries over the first eight months of this year. It is said the illegal practice is to bypass restrictions that are meant to prevent the sale of meat containing a banned additive.
According to a report from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, a total of 181 cases, or 75.7 tonnes, of US beef labelled as South Korean or Australian was found in food safety inspections between January and August.
This report comes at a time when South Korea has suspended some US beef imports after detecting the cattle feed additive Zilpaterol in meat supplied by a unit of JBS USA Holdings.
Along with other Asian nations like China and many European countries, South Korea has not approved Zilpaterol for use in meat due to concerns about the negative side-effects of the additive.
This report also comes two years after a similar trend was reported when Korea had suspended US beef imports over the risk that they might carry the human form of mad cow disease.
According to the report, a total of 451 tonnes of US beef falsely labelled as South Korean or Australian has been found since 2008. Korean authorities then stepped up their watch after the amount of mislabelled beef rose from 14.2 tonnes in 2008 to 152.6 tonnes in 2010.
After the crackdown, the amount of falsely labelled beef dropped to 67.4 tonnes in 2011, but the incidence has slowly been rising again. In 2012, 83.2 tons of mislabelled beef were found.
News reports in South Korea also pointed to incidences of mislabelling of US beef as Australian or South Korean at the end of the supply chain in the country—the National Agricultural Products Quality Management Service said that 85% of the businesses caught selling mislabelled beef in 2012 were restaurants. Reports cited a 25-30% lower cost of US beef as the primary reason behind restaurants mislabelling the meat.