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Taiwan closely monitoring U.S. mad cow disease case

2012/04/25 17:16:11

Taipei, April 25 (CNA) Taiwan's government is closely monitoring reports that a randomly tested dead dairy cow in the United States was found to have mad cow disease and has stepped up measures to reinforce border controls, officials said Wednesday.

Presidential Office Secretary-General Tseng Yung-chuan said President Ma Ying-jeou has been informed of the case, which was confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Tuesday.

Ma has already directed the Council of Agriculture and the Department of Health to "handle the issue in a professional manner," Tseng said.

Currently, officials at the two Cabinet agencies are still discussing how to respond to the matter, but "it is not yet time to open meetings at the national security level," he said.

Meanwhile, Cabinet spokesman Philip Yang said the government is taking the case seriously and has stepped up border controls to prevent barred U.S. beef products from entering Taiwan.

The case of mad cow disease, known formally as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), was the fourth to have been discovered on U.S. soil since 2003, but U.S. health officials were quick to say that products from the cow's carcass had not entered the human food chain.

The cow was randomly selected for testing from a transfer facility in California that sends animals to a rendering plant, which processes animal parts for non-food products, such as soap, chemicals or animal food.

Citing the conclusions of U.S. agricultural authorities, Yang noted that the positive test was an isolated case -- called atypical BSE -- that did not result from infected cattle feed, and he said the U.S. government had given assurances that the finding would not affect domestic consumption or exports.

But he reiterated that Taiwan's government will continue its preventive "three controls, five checkpoints" measures for monitoring imports of U.S. beef.

The controls refer to setting controls on beef imports at the source, at borders and in markets.

The checkpoints refer to verifying certification documents, checking that shipments are marked with detailed product information, opening a high percentage of cartons of imported beef to check the product, conducting food safety tests, and being able to get information on suspected problem products immediately.

Asked whether the government will adopt new strategies because of the case, Yang said related agencies were trying to get more information on the situation in the U.S. and the response of the international community and were holding meetings to discuss various approaches.

(By Kelven Huang, Ho Meng-kuei, Chieh Chia-chen and Elizabeth Hsu)