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Beef in nation's markets free of disease
( 2004-01-07 23:54) (China Daily)

Despite the mad cow crisis involving beef from the United States, it seems that consumers in China have no reason to worry about the disease.

According to Zhang Zhongqiu, vice-director of the stockbreeding and veterinary bureau under the Ministry of Agriculture, there is no case of mad cow disease found in China.

Experts and restaurant representatives say Chinese consumers can feel free to eat beef in the Chinese market, because the market share of US beef is very limited.

According to China Cuisine Association representative Bo Wen, most restaurants in the country use domestic beef and there are only a small number of recognized hotels and western restaurants which cook US beef.

"Therefore, ordinary people do not have to worry,'' Bo said.

A staff at one of the three TGI Friday restaurants in Beijing said the restaurant has stopped the use of US beef and it now cooks domestic and Australian beef.

He added that the news of US mad cow disease does not affect the business of the restaurants.

Ma Qiang, a representative from the US-based Outback Steak House in China, said beef cooked at all of the company's two restaurants in Beijing is from Australia.

"Actually, we had not been using US beef in our restaurants,'' she said.

On December 25, the Ministry of Agriculture and the State Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine announced a ban on imports of US beef and beef-related products after the United States reported its first suspected case of mad cow disease.

Since then, authorities across the country have been taking measures to stop US beef from entering the country and cleaning up the US beef existing in the Chinese market.

And according to media reports across the country, sales of US beef have been stopped in markets of all kinds.

By December 31, the Beijing station for veterinary and health supervision and inspection, after inspecting refrigerators that have a capacity of more than 5,000 tons, had sealed off more than 185 tons of beef and beef-related products.

Sources with the station said the inspection is continuing and the amount of beef sealed off could rise.

But how to dispose of the sealed beef is still unknown, the sources said.

According to media reports, China imported 8,400 tons of beef from the US in 2002, and in the first 10 months of last year the amount was 4,300 tons.

The annual consumption of beef in China is about 6.9 million tons.

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