Brazil Suspends Beef Exports to China Due to Confirmed Mad Cow Disease Case
Brazil, the world’s largest exporter of beef, has suspended exports of the red meat to China starting February 23 due to a confirmed case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease. The case was confirmed by Brazil’s Agriculture Ministry on Wednesday, and shipments to China are being suspended as part of a trade protocol between the two nations.
The infectious agent that causes mad cow disease is an abnormal version of a protein normally found on cell surfaces, called a prion. It destroys the nervous system tissue- the brain and spinal cord, and is colloquially known as mad cow disease because the affected animal loses coordination and can also be violent and nervous.
Samples of the infected animal were sent to a lab in Alberta, Canada, to determine if the case is “atypical”. The atypical variety differs from “classical” BSE linked to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in people, and an atypical case generally means the animal contracted the disease spontaneously, not through contaminated meat-and-bone meal.
The Brazilian government is engaging in talks with Chinese representatives to expedite the return of trade between the two countries, according to a ministry statement. Brazil has last reported an atypical BSE in September 2021 with two cases confirmed, which took three months to lift the export ban.
The only way to prevent mad cow disease is by not feeding animal-derived food to cattle, and in some countries, parts of a cow like the brain, spinal cord and some other parts of the slaughtered animal are disposed off with special care in order to prevent the spread of BSE.
Based on the outlook for tight global beef supplies and the Chinese economy growing more than in 2022, the current ban may be shorter than the 2021 suspension triggered by another atypical detection. China, the main destination for Brazilian beef, accounts for about 60% of the nation’s exports, and Brazil was also the top beef supplier to China last year, ahead of Argentina and Uruguay.
Brazilian farmers are hit hard as China is the primary destination for their beef exports.
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