Sun, Dec 28, 2003 - Page 11 News List

South American nations join group of US-beef-banners

AP , BOGOTA

Colombia, Venezuela and Argentina have banned US beef imports following the confirmation of the first case of mad cow disease in the US, joining more than a dozen other countries to shut their borders.

Officials from the three South American nations said the ban would remain until the US could prove its beef was safe to eat.

Colombian Agriculture Minister Carlos Gustavo Cano said tough controls were being put in place at airports and ports to ensure that no US beef makes its way into Colombia, which consumes an average of 4,000 tonnes of American beef every year.

"Mad cow disease has deadly effects on whoever consumes contaminated meat and for that reason we have to have very strict controls," Cano told local radio.

He said the ban would not lead to beef shortages in the country.

In Caracas, Francisco Armada, the Venezuelan Health Ministry's director of sanitation control, said the ministry had identified only "two or three" companies in Venezuela that import US beef.

The ministry has notified those companies that their permits to import American beef have been suspended, he said.

"Depending on ... the information we get, we'll keep or suspend the measure,'' Armada told reporters.

Jose Luis Betancourt, president of Fedenagas, Venezuela's largest cattle ranching association, said Venezuela only gets 3 percent of its beef abroad and the majority comes from Argentina.

Of the almost 400,000 tonnes of beef that Venezuela consumed last year, only 2,006 tonnes came from the US, officials said.

In Buenos Aires, Argentine authorities also announced a temporary ban, although the country, one of the world's largest beef producers, imports only a small amount of US beef.

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