Lebanon bans US beef on mad cow scare

Beirut - Lebanon has slapped an indefinite ban on imports of US meat and livestock with immediate effect after the United States discovered its first case of mad cow disease, the Agriculture Ministry said on Monday.

"The Lebanese Agriculture Ministry has decided to ban the import of live cattle, sheep and goats, and their refrigerated and frozen meat and by-products from the United States of America," a senior official told Reuters.

Lebanon went for a broader ban as a precaution, another official said, but would review its decision as more information comes to light about the cause and scale of the US crisis. The decision would not affect dairy products, he added.

Lebanon imports only small quantities of meat and livestock from the United States, relying mainly on European, Australian, Indian and Latin American sources.

But its move follows bans on beef and cattle by several countries including major importers such as Japan, Mexico and South Korea, to prevent the spread of the animal brain-wasting disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

US officials expanded on Sunday a recall of more than 4,5 tons of beef within the United States but urged foreign countries to end their bans.

A rare and fatal human form known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease has been linked to consumption of contaminated cattle products.

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