South Korea’s Agriculture Ministry said yesterday it would seek controlled-risk status regarding bovine spongiform encephalopathy from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The OIE formulates a country risk assessment for BSE, and has so far granted 32 countries, including the U.S., Canada and Japan, such status.

Korea is currently classified with an undetermined risk status. The OIE technical committee is expected to issue a final ruling in May 2010.

The ministry is upbeat about the result of the ruling. In order for a country to acquire controlled-risk status, its point target for samples, the number of cattle tested for the disease - should be over 300,000 within a seven-year period. The more cows examined, the more points a country gets from the OIE. According to the ministry, Korea has already recorded 370,000 points.

A controlled-risk country is allowed to export all beef from cattle under 30 months old that do not contain specified risk materials.

Countries with a lower risk are given a negligible rating, the highest safety level in that category. As of May this year, 11 countries, including Australia, Norway, Singapore and Sweden are classified as negligible risk carriers.

The Korean government said it believes the OIE classification will help improve the credibility of its domestic beef.