Beef Tallow Stops Fries

Published online: Jan 05, 2004
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In a surprising action, Asian countries have not only stopped the imports of beef from Washington but french fries as well.

Just when the potato industry thought it had cleared all possible hurdles in shipping fries to Asian countries, potato processors still frying in tallow coming from cattle must handle containers with frozen fries stopped at a Seattle port.

This is a backlash from mad cow disease found December 23 on several Washington state dairy farms. The cows originated in Alberta, Canada, it has been found.

The delayed fries, worth about $3 million in sales to Japan, China and Korea, are being sent back to processors. Tallow cooking oil represents about 15 percent of frozen fries shipped through Pacific Northwest ports each year. The rest are pre-fried in vegetable oil.

Overseas inspectors are closely checking shipments of fries which is slowing some deliveries, said Pat Boss, executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission.

Processors are now trying to improve labels to clarify the distinction betweens vegetable oil and tallow-cooked fries, Boss said.

Despite the assurance of industry officials that meat and fries are safe from transmitting the disease, Asian suppliers have asked that shipments be held up.

Officials are trying to educate consumers that tallow does not include the proteins that are linked to the disease.