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‘Mad Cow’ Case Is Confirmed in Japan

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From Associated Press

A test has shown that a Japanese animal slaughtered in August carried “mad cow” disease, the Ministry of Agriculture said Saturday, confirming the first known case of the deadly brain-wasting illness in Asia.

The Japanese government had announced last week that the 5-year-old dairy cow in central Japan might have suffered from the disease and sent a tissue sample to experts in Britain for a conclusive diagnosis. The results came back late Friday, the ministry said.

It is still unknown how the cow contracted the disease, though investigators are focusing on animal feed as the likely cause, said Kazuki Ikeda, an official at the ministry’s animal health division.

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Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is believed to be spread by recycling meat and bones from infected animals back into cattle feed. The illness, which has ravaged Europe’s cattle industry, is thought to cause the fatal variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans who eat infected meat.

The Ministry of Agriculture was considering a recommendation by a task force of experts to swiftly prohibit imports of feed containing meat and bone, Ikeda said.

Five dairy farms in the Tokyo region have continued feeding bone meal to their cows in violation of a ban imposed Tuesday, the national broadcaster NHK reported late Saturday.

Nationwide criticism over the lax safety measures on farms prompted Agriculture Minister Tsutomu Takebe to apologize Saturday. Takebe told reporters that the ministry had failed to issue precautionary directives to dairy farmers.

Officials have been scrambling to reassure Japanese consumers and persuade other countries, including the United States and several Asian nations, to drop bans imposed on Japanese meat after last week’s announcement.

Wholesalers and retailers told the Ministry of Agriculture that they have suffered drops of up to 20% in sales due to concerns about the disease.

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