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Swift Beef plant in Texas cannot ship meat to South Korea: USDA

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A Swift Beef Company plant in Cactus, Texas, is not eligible to ship beef to South Korea, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Thursday, one day after the country suspended some U.S. beef imports because it detected the cattle-feed-additive zilpaterol in meat supplied by the company.

South Korea said on Wednesday it had found zilpaterol, an animal growth enhancer, in 22 tonnes of beef from a work site of Swift Beef, a unit of JBS USA Holdings Inc. South Korea asked the United States to verify the cause of the contamination.

The USDA, in a notice from its Food Safety and Inspection Service, did not explain why the Cactus plant was no longer eligible to export to South Korea.

"The USDA has been actively engaged and we will work with them to resolve the situation," JBS spokesman Cameron Bruett said on Thursday.

South Korea is among a number of countries that have not approved zilpaterol for use in meat.

The detection of the additive raised concerns that it may still be in the supply chain after drug maker Merck & Co halted sales of Zilmax, the top-selling zilpaterol-based additive, on August 16 amidst concerns about its impact on animal health.

It also comes at a time when U.S. beef prices are rising because of tightening supplies and South Korea is reducing meat imports amid increased domestic production.

(Reporting by Tom Polansek; editing by Gunna Dickson)

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