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Foot-And-Mouth Disease Spreads to Middle East

BRUSSELS/CHICAGO (Reuters) - The outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease that has rocked Europe spread to the Middle East on Wednesday, as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates reported finding 10 cases.

The cases were the first found in the Gulf states, which import most of their meat. UAE Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Saeed al-Ragabani said eight imported cows were found to have the disease, and the official Saudi Press Agency said two calves had been diagnosed with the highly contagious disease in neighboring Saudi Arabia. It was not yet clear where the imported cows had originated.

Countries around the world stepped up efforts to stay free of the disease on Wednesday, banning meat and grain imports from the European Union and increasing checks on travelers from Europe.


The United States was one of a string of countries from Canada to Australia to halt imports of EU meat, and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said her government would take every precaution to keep the disease out of the United States, which has not had a case since 1929.

Britain is the epicenter of the latest outbreak of the disease, which attacks livestock including cattle, sheep, pigs and goats. France announced its first case since 1981 on Tuesday.

Within the EU, German police began guarding normally unmanned border crossings with France. Police checked everything from British soccer fans to frozen veal schnitzels. In Britain, tens of thousands of carcasses are being burned on giant pyres and much of the countryside is effectively a no-go zone.


World governments' response to the foot-and-mouth outbreak took on aspects of a trade war on Wednesday, as EU Food Safety Commissioner David Byrne criticized countries that had taken "unnecessary and excessive" measures.

"If necessary we will make full use of our bilateral contacts and our WTO (World Trade Organization) trade arrangements to have these restrictions lifted," Byrne told the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The European Commission on Wednesday urged four countries -- Morocco, Hungary, Slovakia and Tunisia -- to end what it called unjustified bans on imports of EU grain imposed over fears of the spread of foot-and-mouth.

Foot-and-mouth is a virulent disease in which fever is followed by the development of blisters, chiefly in the mouth or on the feet. It is not believed to readily affect humans.

Argentina, the world's No. 5 beef exporter, said on Tuesday it had confirmed the existence of a foot-and-mouth outbreak, its first case since 1994.

Chicago commodity markets gyrated on Wednesday in response to the outbreak. Pork prices surged to eight-month highs one day after the United States and other countries banned meat imports from the European Union.

Prices of livestock feed ingredients, chiefly soybeans and soybean meal, tumbled on expectations of reduced demand as producers slaughter their herds.

McDonald's Corp., the world's largest restaurant company, warned on Wednesday that its first-quarter earnings would be hurt by the growing consumer beef scare in Europe, where foot-and-mouth is starting to add to mad cow troubles, which have caused consumers to avoid hamburgers.


The U.S. government took steps on Wednesday to prevent foot-and-mouth from entering the United States. The government adopted strict new measures, including disinfecting some European travelers' shoes, to protect American livestock from the disease.

Extra U.S. health inspectors, foot-sniffing dogs and close questioning of airline passengers returning from the European countryside were among the tools being used by the U.S. Agriculture Department to prevent the spread of the highly contagious disease that has thrown Europe into a panic.

"If this were to spread to the United States ... the losses would reach into billions of dollars quickly," said Alfonso Torres, deputy administrator of USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The Agriculture Department staged a demonstration at Dulles International Airport outside Washington on Wednesday to show how arriving passengers from Europe will be questioned and inspected.

British visitors flying into Florida's tourist mecca of Orlando had their shoes sprayed with disinfectant as airport inspectors joined the campaign to keep foot-and-mouth at bay.


Canada's agriculture minister on Wednesday appealed to livestock farmers to stop people who have visited countries hit by foot-and-mouth from visiting their farms. Canada on Tuesday banned meat imports from the EU and from Argentina, where the disease was also found. Canada has been free of the disease since 1952.

The U.S. Agriculture Department on Wednesday released a list of prohibited animal products from the European Union. Banned EU items include fresh, frozen or chilled raw meat such as pork and lamb. A department spokesman said it was unclear how long the ban on EU products would last.

Sweden's agriculture minister said outbreaks of foot-and-mouth and mad cow disease could turn into budget-wrecking national catastrophes, while the director-general of the World Health Organization said the costs involved in combating food scares were rising sharply.

A United Nations commodities expert said foot-and-mouth could push up world meat prices unless outbreaks are contained quickly.

If this was Saddam's doing it backfired.

-- (, March 15, 2001


British visitors flying into Florida's tourist mecca of Orlando had their shoes sprayed with disinfectant as airport inspectors joined the campaign to keep foot-and-mouth at bay.
What good does this do if the do it after folks get on the plane?
Is the plane disinfected?
Once you walk on the carpet after they did you got it too!
It should all people do it just as they get off the plane, including the service folks who use the back door. And the same goes for luggage.

-- (, March 15, 2001.

I agree; it's not clear to me that this particular "preventive" measure is more than window dressing.

-- Andre Weltman (, March 15, 2001.

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