The European Commission yesterday announced a formal EU-wide import ban on British meat and livestock following the outbreak there of foot and mouth disease -- although it did praise London's response to the outbreak.
The ban covers fresh meat as well as live cattle, pigs, sheep and goats and milk products from Great Britain excluding Northern Ireland, said Philip Tod, spokesman for EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyrpianou.
The move "will essentially confirm measures in place since Friday," Tod said, adding "We are very happy with the prompt response of the British authorities. We are very satisfied with the way in which they have handled the situation."
"We cannot compare to 2001 [outbreak]. However, we welcome the fact that the British authorities have managed to isolate the virus with such speed and look forward to them identifying where the outbreak originated," he said.
Meanwhile, British Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said a report by the country's Health and Safety Executive inspectors is expected within 48 hours, and confirmed inquiries were focused on a suspected link between new cases and a vaccine laboratory.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was hosting talks at his London office, and officials were convening the government's crisis committee after two cows tested positive for the disease.
The laboratory, close to a farm where cases of the disease were reported, is shared by the government's Institute for Animal Health (IAH), and a private pharmaceutical company, Merial Animal Health.
Merial said yesterday that it found no evidence of a breach in biosecurity, and the IAH claimed a check of records found "limited use" of the virus in the past four weeks.
"We have got to make sure this doesn't spread any further," Benn told BBC radio, recalling scenes in 2001 when 7 million animals were culled and incinerated on pyres.
Veterinary experts matched a strain found last week in cattle on a farm outside Wanborough, 50km southwest of London, to the laboratory, which is used to produce vaccine against the disease.
But Merial Animal Health managing director David Biland said yesterday that initial inquiries had shown there had been no failures in security procedures at the plant.
The site "operates to the very highest international standards, and we have complete confidence in the integrity of our operation here," Biland said.
"However, it is still too early in this investigation for anyone to determine the cause of the outbreak," he said.