Saudi stops Brazil beef imports over suspected mad cow disease

Cattle being loaded for export in Barcarena, in Brazil, on, October 9, 2013. Saudi Arabia has suspended beef imports from Brazil over fears of a suspected case of atypical mad cow disease detected in the country, the Gulf kingdom said on Monday.&nbsp
Cattle being loaded for export in Barcarena, in Brazil, on, October 9, 2013. Saudi Arabia has suspended beef imports from Brazil over fears of a suspected case of atypical mad cow disease detected in the country, the Gulf kingdom said on Monday. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 

RIYADH (AFP) - Saudi Arabia has suspended beef imports from Brazil over fears of a suspected case of atypical mad cow disease detected in the country, the Gulf kingdom said on Monday.

The Saudi agriculture ministry announced the "temporary" suspension in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency. It follows a warning from the Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) after a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was detected in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso.

Brazil said last month that the alleged case of BSE was traced to a single, 12-year-old grazing cow slaughtered on March 19 due to old age. It did not have any symptoms of the disease. All animals that had contact with the cow were identified and isolated.

Saudi Arabia and other energy-rich Gulf monarchies are major importers of beef, of which Brazil is a main exporter. In 2012 and early 2013, almost 10 countries suspended their imports of Brazilian beef after a case of atypical mad cow disease was detected in an animal that died in 2010 in the southern state of Parana.

A subsequent probe showed the animal did not die of BSE. The OIE said at the time that it was "maintaining Brazil's status as a country with an insignificant risk of BSE."