China bans U.S. beef
Japan is the biggest importer of U.S. beef by value.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman confirms the mad cow case.
|THE HUMAN LINK|
Mad cow disease was first reported in the United Kingdom in 1986, peaking in 1993 with almost 1,000 new cases per week.
In 1996, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) was detected in humans and linked to the mad cow epidemic. Eating contaminated meat and cattle products is presumed to be the cause.
Both are fatal brain diseases with unusually long incubation periods, often lasting years.
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(CNN) -- China has become the latest nation to ban imports of U.S. beef as the mad cow scare spreads to Asia.
On Thursday a Chinese official said Beijing has suspended the imports, joining Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea.
Other major Asian importers are deciding whether to introduce their own bans after a cow in Washington state tested positive for the brain wasting disease -- the first such case in the United States.
The farm where the cow was found has been quarantined, and a further test will be carried out in the United Kingdom to confirm a case of mad cow disease or BSE, bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
Two tests have already been carried out on the slaughtered cow, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said late Tuesday, adding the animal had tested "presumptive positive" for BSE. (Full story)
Though U.S. officials have maintained there is no threat to the food chain, countries moved to quickly shut their borders.
Japan -- the biggest export market for U.S. beef, importing $843 million worth last year, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation -- was the first to react, announcing within hours of Veneman's comments that Tokyo had temporarily stopped issuing import certificates
South Korea is the No. 3 market behind Mexico, taking beef worth about $610 million. It has halted customs inspections of U.S. beef, effectively keeping it out of the country.
Singapore's Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority said in a statement Wednesday it had suspended U.S. beef imports immediately.
Singapore imported only 988 tones of U.S. beef, valued at $7.14 million, from total imports of 18,393 tones. Most beef is imported from Australia, New Zealand and Brazil, the authority said.
Malaysia also suspended imports, but like Singapore it is a minor buyer of U.S. beef, taking only about 290 tones a year.
In a largely symbolic move, Australia too has temporarily suspended imports. A spokesman told CNN late Wednesday there had been no recent imports of beef from the United States.
Australia is a major meat exporter and competes for global markets with the United States.
In Tokyo, shares in fast food chain McDonald's Holdings (Japan) closed down 3 percent Wednesday, following a similar fall for its U.S. parent in after-hours trading Tuesday.
McDonald's Japan says it sources all the beef used in its hamburger patties from Australia, which has had no cases of mad cow.
While exporters in Australia -- one of the biggest beef exporter in the Asian-pacific region -- stood to gain, Cattle Council of Australia president Keith Adams said the mad cow case was still bad news for Australian beef companies.
"This is bad news for everybody -- there's no upside to this," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Mad cow disease first appeared in the United Kingdom in the mid-1980s.
Canada, hit by a similar ban from Japan after a single case of mad cow disease was found in the province of Alberta in May, reacted cautiously to the news south of its border.
Dr. Brian Evans, chief veterinary officer of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, said they were confident about the U.S. agricultural monitoring system, but would take action if there were any significant developments over the next 48 hours, The Associated news reported.
BSE is linked to a similar form of the incurable and fatal brain-wasting disease in humans, called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, or vCJD.
There have been a small number of cases of vCJD reported worldwide, primarily in the United Kingdom, in people who ate BSE-contaminated meat.
At least 100 people have died of vCJD, and outbreaks of BSE have led to large declines in beef consumption.
Mad cow disease first appeared in the United Kingdom in the mid-1980s and millions of cattle were slaughtered.
BSE spread across the European cattle industry, but the first case in North America did not appear until the Canadian case in May this year. Eighteen farms were quarantined, but no additional cases were discovered.
Japan stopped importing animal feed from Britain in 1996, and in January 2001, banned beef imports and processed beef products from 18 countries, including EU members.
Japan was the first country to find an infected cow outside of Europe. Its first case of the disease was reported in the Chiba area east of Tokyo in August 2001.
In November this year, Japan confirmed that a 21-month-old Holstein in Hiroshima prefecture in western Japan had tested positive for BSE on October 29.
It was the ninth mad cow case for Japan since the illness was discovered in the country two years ago and its second in less than a month.