Indonesia bans US Beef Imports over Mad Cow Concern

April 27, 2012

JAKARTA – Following the discovery this week of an American dairy cow infected with mad cow disease, Indonesia announced suspension of beef imports from the United States.

Reaction elsewhere in Asia, however, was muted with no immediate signs some of the biggest consumers, South Korea and Japan, would follow suit. Both countries are close U.S. allies and their governments are balancing that key relationship against the protectionist demands of their domestic meat industries.

Said Rusman Heriawan, Vice Minister of Indonesia’s Agriculture, “We will lift the ban as soon as the US can assure us its dairy cows are free of mad cow disease.”  He added that the lift could happen after a month of a year depending on how long it takes to resolve this case.

The new infection is the first in the US since 2006. It was discovered in a dairy cow in California, but health authorities said the animal was never a threat to the nation’s food supply. According to Ron Kirk, a US Trade Representative, said during a stopover in Singapore there was no evidence any contaminated product had entered the food chain.

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is fatal to cows and can cause a deadly brain disease in people who eat tainted beef. U.S. authorities said the dead California cow had what scientists call an atypical case of BSE, meaning that a random mutation in the animal rather than infected cattle feed was the cause.

Indonesia last year imported 20,000 tonnes of American beef – a tiny fraction of US global beef shipments. Even before the new mad cow case, Indonesia had said it wanted to reduce its dependency on beef imports, with the ultimate goal of becoming self sufficient.

 

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