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US BANS IMPORTS OF MEAT FROM EUROPE
The United States today banned all imports of fresh meat, livestock  and animal products from 14 European countries in response to confirmation of foot-and-mouth disease in France.

The French case indicates foot-and-mouth has spread from England, where it is sweeping through livestock herds in epidemic proportions, to the European continent, the U.S. wants to prevent the virus from entering the U.S.

The ban, which applies to unpasteurized dairy products as well, will have the biggest impact on the import of pork. Imports of beef had already been banned because of mad-cow disease.

The ban does not cover cooked meat such as Danish ham or Italian prosciutto . Cooked cheeses, Brie and goat cheese are also not banned.

Imports from Argentina also were banned after a case of the disease was found there.

"We want to make sure we're taking the appropriate steps to make sure it doesn't cross the ocean by means of our ports or travelers," said USDA spokesman Kevin Herglotz. He added that "if foot-and-mouth disease were to enter the United States, the cost [would be] in the billions."

"We do not want to panic consumers here," Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman  said. "This is not an issue that will impact human health. This is not Mad Cow disease.  It is unlikely we will see any price impact at all [because] most of the products that we have are produced here domestically".

"Right now we just don't know how far this disease has spread," said Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, whose state is a top hog producer. "It is common sense to take protective measures."  Chuck Lambert, a spokesman for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said the department was acting properly. "As conditions change, they've adapted their monitoring and surveillance," Lambert said.

Foot-and-mouth virus is not harmful to humans, but it spreads so quickly that entire herds and flocks must be destroyed to contain it. The disease can be transmitted by shoes and automobile tires.


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