* Shares of Brazilian beef companies briefly sink on reports
* OIE says cow had case of "atypical BSE"
* OIE maintains Brazil as "insignificant risk" of BSE
(Adds details from Agriculture Ministry, JBS, changes dateline,
updates share prices)
BRASILIA, Dec 7 Brazil's Agriculture Ministry
said on Friday that the country has not registered any case of
mad cow disease, denying reports on some local media web sites
that said the disease had cropped up in the southern state of
Parana two years ago.
Brazilian officials said the animal that died in Parana in
December 2010 did not have bovine spongiform encephalopathy
(BSE), commonly called mad cow disease, just the protein
believed to cause the disease, which likely appeared after a
spontaneous genetic mutation in the 13-year-old cow.
Test results suggested the animal would have been unlikely
to go on to develop the disease had it not died of other causes,
the agriculture ministry said, adding the simple presence of the
protein, called a prion, is considered an atypical case of BSE.
Results of tests carried out in England this month by the
World Animal Health Organization (OIE) on tissue from the cow,
confirmed the presence of the protein, Brazilian officials said
in a press conference.
The OIE has not yet made its report public.
"The animal in question didn't manifest the disease and
didn't die of this cause," said Executive Secretary Jose Carlos
Vaz, one of the agriculture ministry's top officials.
Officials could not confirm the exact cause of death of the
pasture-fed female used for breeding purposes, but said it had
septicemia and mineral deficiencies. Its keepers notified
authorities after it was found collapsed on the ground. It died
24 hours later. A neurodegenerative disease would have taken
much longer to cause death, officials pointed out.
The OIE has maintained Brazil's status as a country with an
insignificant risk of BSE, the officials said, adding Brazil
would pursue legal action if necessary against any importer
trying to exploit BSE claims to block imports of Brazilian beef.
Asked why it had taken two years for Brazil to send a sample
of the cow's tissue to the OIE for testing on Dec. 1, officials
said the country adhered to the established protocol of
conducting exhaustive tests at home first.
Share prices of Brazil's main beef companies sank in early
trade after the media reports describing the case as mad cow
disease w e re picked up and circulated by local equities
analysts. Shares of Brazil's JBS SA slipped as much
as 3 percent in early trade but later were down just 0.54
percent after the government published a denial of the reports.
Alexandre Inacio, an adviser for JBS SA, the world's largest
beef producer, said the company had little to add beyond the
Shares of beef producer Minerva SA fell 4 percent
in early trade but were down just 0.45 percent in the afternoon
as the Bovespa index rose 1.19 percent. Marfrig
Alimentos SA was down 0.71 percent.
Marfrig said in an e-mailed statement that there are no
incidents of mad cow in Brazil.
"The disease is related to the cattle's ingestion of animal
products, which is forbidden in Brazil," the statement said.
The ministry had already denied reports of a case of mad cow
disease after news agencies picked up on the story originally
reported after the animal's death in 2010.
A story posted on the website of financial newspaper Valor
Economico early on Friday said the cow in Parana had probably
died of mad cow disease.
The outbreak of mad cow disease in Europe, North America and
Japan over the past decade often prompted beef importers to
embargo shipments and caused temporary chaos in the industry.
Brazil is the world's largest beef exporter.
(Reporting by Reese Ewing, Caroline Stauffer, Gustavo Bonato
and Peter Murphy; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Gerald E. McCormick
and Bob Burgdorfer)