Japan confirmed a second case of mad cow disease on Wednesday, deepening a health scare that experts say could turn Japanese away from beef for years.
Health Minister Chikara Sakaguchi said a committee of experts had confirmed a five-year-old Holstein dairy cow from the northern island of Hokkaido tested positive for the brain-wasting disease, known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
"We have received confirmation that this was BSE," Sakaguchi said.
It is the second case of the disease in Japan after a Holstein on a farm near Tokyo tested positive on September 10 in Asia's first outbreak of the disease. That case sparked a food scare that sent Japanese beef sales tumbling 70 per cent.
Sakaguchi said the carcass of the cow, which had initially tested positive for the disease at a meat inspection centre in Hokkaido on Tuesday, would be burned to ensure its meat does not make its way to consumers.
The Health Ministry said the latest case showed that stringent tests on slaughtered meat since October 18 were catching tainted beef before it reached consumers. No one has died or fallen sick since Japan's first case was reported.
"The government will take every step possible to secure the safety of meat and other products and to dispel worries among the public," top government spokesman Yasuo Fukuda told reporters.
Scientists believe that eating beef infected with BSE can cause variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), a fatal brain affliction. In Europe, vCJD has killed about 100 people.