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Countries move to ban U.S. beef

Japan is the biggest importer of U.S. beef by value.
Japan is the biggest importer of U.S. beef by value.

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U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman confirms the mad cow case.
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• 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.
Source: CDC
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(CNN) -- In the first waves of response to the U.S. mad cow scare, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan have joined major buyers Japan and South Korea in immediately banning all U.S. beef imports.

Other major Asian buyers, such as China, were deciding whether to introduce their own bans after a cow in Washington state tested positive for the disease -- the first such case in the United States.

Japan is the biggest export market for U.S. beef, importing $843 million worth last year, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

South Korea is the No. 3 market behind Mexico, taking beef worth about $610 million.

The two East Asian nations said Wednesday they are taking action which effectively brings imports from the United States to a halt.

Japan has temporarily stopped issuing import certificates, while South Korea 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 tonnes of U.S. beef, valued at S$12.2 million, or $7.14 million of total imports of 18,393 tonnes. 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 tonnes a year.

Shares in big Japanese restaurant chain Yoshinoya D&C are down more than 8 percent in Wednesday trade as the market reacts to the news. Tokyo's broad Topix index is down 0.28 percent.

Fast food chain McDonald's Holdings (Japan) is down 3 percent, 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.

But Cattle Council of Australia president Keith Adams said Wednesday the case was bad news for Australian beef exporters.

"This is bad news for everybody -- there's no upside to this," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Sources in Tokyo told CNN that Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries would formally announce the ban on U.S. beef later Wednesday.

South Korea's Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry said Wednesday it has decided to suspend customs clearance for all U.S. beef and beef products at the nation's airports and seaports, Yonhap news agency reported.

According to Japan's Kyodo news agency, Japanese Agricultural, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshiyuki Kamei told reporters that Japan would take ''a similar measure'' as that taken after a case of mad cow disease was found in the Canadian province of Alberta in May.

Japan has banned imports from Canada since then.


Mad cow disease first appeared in the United Kingdom in the mid-1980s.
Mad cow disease first appeared in the United Kingdom in the mid-1980s.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said late Tuesday the country's first apparent case of mad cow disease had been discovered in Washington state. (Full story)

Two tests have already been carried out on the cow, enabling Veneman to say it had tested "presumptive positive for BSE", or bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

A sample is being flown to England for a third test to absolutely confirm the case.

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.

Mad cow disease first appeared in the United Kingdom in the mid-1980s and resulted in the slaughter of millions of cattle.

BSE spread across the European cattle industry after that, but the first case in North America did not appear until May this year, when a diseased cow in the Canadian province of Alberta was found. 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.

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