Brazil suspends beef exports to China over ‘atypical’ mad cow case

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Brazil’s government said on Monday it had suspended beef exports to China after an “atypical” case of mad cow disease was identified in the state of Mato Grosso, an agricultural hub.

Exports will remain at a halt while Chinese authorities evaluate details of the incident, the agriculture ministry said in a notice.

Brazil is the world’s biggest exporter of beef and poultry.

The ministry said the “atypical” case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, had cropped up in a “spontaneous and sporadic manner, and not linked to the intake of contaminated food.”

The animal was 17 years old. It was killed and incinerated, the ministry said, adding that no further risk was posed.

The country’s beef exports to China totaled $442.3 million in the first four months of this year - 26 percent of the overall total, and up more than 16 percent from the same period a year ago, according to government data.

The suspension of exports stems from a bilateral protocol, but the World Organization for Animal Health has not changed Brazil’s status, as it considers the overall risk of the disease in Brazil’s livestock to be minor, the ministry said.

The appearance of the first cases of mad cow disease in 1986 in Britain caused a public health scare that lasted several years.

In 1996, it became clear the disease can be transmitted to humans in the form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

The European Union ordered a worldwide embargo on British beef and its derivatives that was lifted in Europe in 1999.

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