* South Africa, China follow Japan in restricting imports
* All three countries small purchasers of Brazilian beef
* Brazil striving to clear name over "atypical" BSE case
By Peter Murphy
BRASILIA, Dec 13 China and South Africa informed
Brazil on Thursday that they were suspending imports of beef
from the world's biggest exporter of the meat following a case
of atypical BSE that was confirmed last week, Brazilian
agriculture ministry officials said.
Including Japan, which suspended imports on Monday, three
countries have now restricted purchases of beef from Brazil
while seeking details about the death of an elderly cow in 2010
which never actually developed the disease.
None of these countries are significant buyers of Brazilian
beef. Brazil's top customer, Russia, has so far imposed no such
restrictions, though it said on Thursday that it was weighing
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
disease - which is usually caused by contaminated feed.
Atypical BSE can arise in elderly cattle due to a
spontaneous genetic mutation that causes it to begin producing
distorted proteins known as prions. The proteins can trigger
BSE, which eventually destroys the animal's nervous system, and
it is believed humans ingesting beef from a stricken animal can
contract a fatal form of the disease.
The 13-year-old cow in southern Brazil tested positive for
prions, a result confirmed by the World Organization for Animal
Health (OIE) last week. But it died of other causes in 2010 and
never actually developed the disease.
The animal was buried on the farm where it had been used for
breeding purposes and never entered the food chain.
Outbreaks of mad cow disease in Europe, North America and
Japan in the past decade, following an epidemic in Great Britain
in the late 1980s, prompted some importers to embargo shipments
and roiled the industry on several occasions.
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 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