Brasilia - China and South Africa have joined Japan in suspending imports of Brazilian beef over an atypical case of mad cow disease, an official from the agriculture ministry said on Thursday.
"We received official notification from China and South Africa announcing the decision," the official said on condition of anonymity.
The ministry earlier this month said the case was detected in an animal that died in 2010 in the southern state of Parana and posed "no risk whatsoever to public health or to animal hygiene."
The ministry official said Brasilia, as it did with Japan earlier this week, contacted China and South Africa to set the record straight over the atypical case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
The government said it would dispatch official missions to the three countries.
In an earlier statement, the ministry said: "Brazil does not have cases of BSE" and noted that it had launched "preventive action" to preempt similar measures by key importers.
"We are in touch with countries to reaffirm that the atypical case of the disease carries no risk for exports," the ministry said then.
Authorities also said the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) had been notified of the case and in response indicated it was "maintaining Brazil's status as a country with an insignificant risk of BSE, the best existing risk classification."
Brazil argues that several countries, including the United States, Canada, Japan, Portugal and Britain, also recorded atypical cases of BSE.
"Only this year, the European Union reported six cases to the OIE," the agriculture ministry said.
With nearly 200 million head of cattle, Brazil is a leading beef exporter with 138 countries as customers this year.
From January to October, it exported one million tons of beef, mainly to Russia, the ministry said.
Other major customers of Brazilian beef are China and Hong Kong. Brazil is a member of the Brics bloc of emerging powers, which also includes China, India, Russia and South Africa.
Russia and India have not announced suspensions so far although the Brazilian press reported that Moscow was mulling a preventive suspension.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, currently on a visit to Moscow, met Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday and was to hold talks with President Vladimir Putin on Friday.
Without including figures from Hong Kong, China bought 10,000 tons of Brazilian meat between January and October, while South Africa imported 293 tons and Japan 1,392, according to official statistics.
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