Japan confirms case of mad cow disease

/ Source: The Associated Press

Officials in Japan have confirmed the country's first case of mad cow disease in cattle raised to provide meat, an official of the Health Ministry said Friday.

A 14-year-old cow in the southern prefecture of Nagasaki was confirmed to have been infected with the disease, said the official, who declined to be named citing ministry policy.

Japan had previously confirmed 23 cases of the disease, but they all involved cattle bred to produce milk. People can get a variant form of the disease by eating contaminated meat products, but milk poses no known risk.

The official said that all body parts from the cow have been destroyed.

The cow became unable to stand earlier this month and it was sent to a meat processing plant for testing after it gave birth, Kyodo News agency reported. The cow tested positive for the mad cow disease in preliminary tests, it said.

The case won't affect U.S. trade with Japan, U.S. Agriculture Department spokesman Ed Loyd said Friday. The United States recently confirmed a third case of mad cow disease.

"Just as we ask our trading partners to follow scientific guidelines for the safe trade of beef products, we do the same," Loyd said. "We've gone through extensive risk analysis to determine how to safely trade beef products with Japan."

Japan, once the top international buyer of American beef, closed its market after the first U.S. case in 2003 and had only recently lifted its ban. However, Japan halted American beef shipments in January after finding veal cuts with backbone — cuts that are eaten in the U.S. but not in Asia.

After confirming its first case of mad cow disease in 2001, Japan began testing every domestically slaughtered cow entering the market and banned the use of meat-and-bone meal made from ruminant animal parts because they could transmit the disease.

But last month, a cow that died from the disease at another farm was found to have been fed meat-and-bone meal. Authorities ordered the slaughter of 45 other cows as a precaution at the farm in Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido.

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is a brain-wasting disease in cattle, which in humans can cause a variant form, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

The disease has killed more than 150 people, mostly in Britain, where there was an outbreak in the 1990s.