| TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan said
on Tuesday it had banned the use of meat-and-bone meal (MBM) in feed products
for cattle following the discovery of a suspected outbreak of mad cow disease,
the first in Japan or in Asia.|
``We revised the ministry's regulations to ban the use of MBM in feed for cattle,'' a ministry official said. ``The ban takes effect from today.''
The Agriculture Ministry asked the domestic livestock industry not to use the animal protein feed for cattle in 1996 but is now backing the recommendation with the weight of law.
The case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or mad cow disease, was made public on September 10 after a Holstein dairy cow on a farm in Chiba near Tokyo tested positive.
Since then, the agriculture ministry has been investigating domestic plants producing compound feed for cattle to see if they are using MBM, while some 5,800 animal health experts have been deployed to check 4.5 million cows nationwide.
Saturday's announcement by the ministry that part of the infected cow had been used as MBM to produce feed for pigs and poultry rattled the domestic market, despite the ministry's repeated assurance that it had not entered the food chain.
The ministry had previously said the Chiba cow was burned.
BSE is believed to be transmitted via infected MBM.
Earlier this year, Japan banned all cattle-related products from the European Union, but it had previously imported animal feedstuff, including MBM, from Britain and other EU nations.
Given that the disease has an incubation period of between two and eight years, the five-year-old cow could have been infected some time ago, possibly by British MBM imports, which Japan only banned in 1996.
The infected cow was born on a farm on Hokkaido island in 1996, the country's main cattle-breeding area, and was moved to the Chiba farm in 1998.
On Tuesday, the remains of the slaughtered cow were sent to Britain for further tests to confirm the disease, another ministry official said.
The ministry was also reviewing current testing for BSE, Agriculture Minister Tsutomu Takebe told reporters.
The National Institute of Animal Health in Tsukuba near Tokyo plans to re-test some of about 300 cows that had shown similar symptoms of mad cow disease but later tested negative.
Its first tests on the Chiba cow failed to detect abnormal prion proteins, but later the animal tested positive after brain tissue was tested, an official at the institute said.