A 20-month-old Holstein steer slaughtered for beef in Japan have bovine spongiform encephalopathy, according to a report by the Associated Press, quoting a Japan Agricultural Ministry official. If confirmed, the case could have repercutions for other countries, based on past assumptions about the science of BSE.

Toshitaka Higashira of the Agriculture Ministry reports that the steer in question tested positive for the disease, but officials are awaiting confirmatory tests. It is possible that those will come back negative for BSE.

Vice Agriculture Minister Mamoru Isihara told reporters that if the case is confirmed, it would affect import restrictions on beef from the United States and Canada. As reported by Meatingplace.com, the presumption is that Isihara meant the present agreements, which allow beef from cattle younger than 21 months old would have to be reviewed.

The U.S. position has been that BSE is almost never found in cattle younger than 30 months old. Japan, however, has wanted the cutoff to be 21 months. This case could further delay the resumption of U.S. exports.

Only one animal this young has ever been found to suffer from BSE, reports Meatingplace.com. It was in the United Kingdom in 1992, when BSE was widespread. Japan has had only 24 cases since 2001; the United States, with a much larger herd, has found only two native-born cases since 2003.

Source: Meatingplace.com, Associated Press