(Clarifies Brazil world's largest beef exporter, not producer)
* South Africa follows Japan in restricting Brazil beef
* South Africa's Brazil beef purchases usually tiny
* Brazil striving to clear name over spontaneous BSE case
BRASILIA, Dec 13 South Africa informed Brazil on
Thursday that it is restricting imports of beef from the world's
biggest exporter following a case of atypical BSE confirmed last
week, a Brazilian agriculture ministry official said.
The statement from South Africa gave no details about
exactly what restrictions the country planned to impose, a
ministry press officer told Reuters. The announcement comes
three days after Japan announced a suspension on Brazilian beef
purchases while it investigates the case.
South Africa's imports of Brazilian beef are miniscule,
having totaled just 647 equivalent tons from January to
September this year, according to Brazil's Beef Exporters'
Association ABIEC. The country ranks 70th among foreign buyers
of Brazilian beef.
Brazil has launched a diplomatic offensive to clarify the
details of the case of suspected atypical BSE, which it has been
at pains to differentiate from regular BSE, known as mad cow
BSE, which is usually caused by contaminated animal feed,
reached epidemic proportions in Great Britain from the late
1980s. Outbreaks 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.
Atypical BSE can arise in elderly cattle due to a
spontaneous genetic mutation that causes it to begin producing
the proteins known as prions. The proteins can trigger BSE,
which eventually destroys the animal's nervous system.
In April, the United States reported a case of atypical BSE
in an animal which never entered the food chain, but the country
escaped a backlash from importers.
The 13-year-old cow in southern Brazil that tested positive
for the prions, a result confirmed by the World Organization for
Animal Health (OIE) last week, died of other causes in 2010 and
never actually developed the neurodegenerative disease.
The Brazilian agriculture ministry's secretary for animal
and plant health, Enio Pereira, told Reuters this week that much
of the two-year delay between the cow's death and confirmation
of prions in its tissue was caused by a logistical anomaly at
(Reporting by Peter Murphy; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)