Australia moved to assure its meat export partners and domestic market Friday that its beef was safe after it was linked to an E-coli contamination scare in the United States.
Australia's agriculture department said it had recently been notified that local beef had been "implicated" in E-coli contamination of mincemeat in the United States.
The particular strain causes bleeding in the bowels and can lead to kidney failure among children and the elderly.
The beef had tested negative for E-coli during pre-export screening in Australia and "met U.S. import requirements and was cleared by U.S. border authorities," the department said in a statement.
"Discussions are ongoing with all parties concerned while confirmation of the source of the contamination is being progressed," it said.
"Contamination can occur at any part of the supply chain."
It stressed that "all meat produced in Australia for export and domestic consumption remains safe."
A department spokesman, Greg Read, said it "always concerns us" when Australian products are implicated in contamination scares and "we're looking at improving the (screening) system to ensure that in the future the potential for these sort of incidents are minimized."
Read was responding to claims that seven other shipments of contaminated Australian meat had reached the U.S. in recent months -- three of which were infected with E-coli and another three containing faeces or other matter.
The seventh was found to contain veterinary drugs, according to state broadcaster ABC, which said it had obtained emails from U.S. agriculture officials showing up to 13 shipments of Australian meat had been knocked back in the past year.
Read said the agriculture department had conducted "thorough investigations" into the earlier E-coli incidents and reviewed its guidelines and methodologies.
The U.S. is Australia's second-largest processed beef market -- with Japan at number one and South Korea at three -- and its largest lamb export market.
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