SAO PAULO Dec 17 Egypt, the third largest
importer of Brazilian beef, banned imports of the meat from the
state of Parana, which registered a case of atypical mad-cow
disease earlier this month, a newspaper said on Monday.
But the Middle-Eastern country was continuing to import beef
from the rest of Brazil without any apparent restrictions, the
Valor Economico newspaper said, highlighting the still-limited
impact of the case on Brazilian grass-fed beef exports.
The Brazilian Agriculture Ministry said it had yet to
receive any official notification of the partial ban on its beef
exports to Egypt. The paper said that Egyptian authorities gave
only verbal notification to the Brazilian embassy in Cairo.
So far only Japan, China and South Africa have halted
imports since Brazil announced on Dec. 7 that a 13-year-old cow
that died in 2010 in Parana state tested positive for the
protein linked to the development of bovine spongiform
encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow.
These countries are all minor importers of Brazilian beef.
"It's easy to restrict beef imports at this time of year
when trade flows slow down," said Mauricio Palma Nogueira, the
head of local beef and dairy consultants Bigma. "Most likely,
Brazil will see continued growth in annual beef exports."
Russia, Hong Kong and Egypt, which account for more than
half of the 896,000 tonnes of beef that Brazil has exported this
year through September, continue to import its beef.
The head of Russia's VPSS animal and food safety agency said
earlier on Monday it was unlikely to ban all Brazilian beef
imports over BSE concerns.
The elderly cow which was kept for breeding purposes never
developed BSE and died of other causes. But it tested positive
for the disease's causal agent, a protein called a prion, which
can arise spontaneously in elderly cattle.
In this condition, which was confirmed by the World Animal
Health Organization (OIE), animals are classified as having
'atypical BSE', which may or may not go on to cause the BSE
disease, Brazilian agriculture officials said.
A similar case of atypical BSE occurred in the United States
in April. Like the Brazilian cow, that animal never entered the
food chain and the United States managed to avoid any
restrictions on its beef exports.
Brazil's 200-million-head cattle herd is almost entirely
pasture-raised until the final few weeks before slaughter, when
they are confined and fattened on feeds. It is a very different
system of beef production than that which led to the mad-cow
disease outbreak in Europe in the 1980s and 1990s, where animals
were fed remains of other animals including brain and nervous
system tissue sometimes affected by BSE, which spread the
Nervous system tissue is removed and incinerated from
Brazilian cattle during processing at meat plants.
"If you look hard enough, you'll find prions in herds
anywhere in the world," said Nogueira. "With the OIE keeping
Brazil at minimal risk and the cow never having manifested the
disease, Brazil will likely follow the course of the United
States with little impact on exports."