TOKYO – Japan has stopped importing beef from Brazil after the World Animal Health Organization (OIE) discovered a protein believed to cause bovine spongiform encephalopathy in a cow. Meanwhile, officials in Brazil deny the case is BSE.

OIE conducted tests on tissue from the Brazilian cow and confirmed the presence of prions, the protein linked to BSE. The OIE report stated that the animal was a beef breeding cow almost 13 years old when it died, according to information obtained during the epidemiological investigations. The cow also was tested for rabies before being “properly buried”.

“The epidemiological investigation shows that the animal’s death was not caused by BSE and suggests that it may be an atypical case of the disease occurring in the oldest animals,” OIE said in its findings. “Information collected during the epidemiological investigation shows also that the animal was reared in an extensive system on grazing.”

OIE added that Brazil is still recognized as having a negligible BSE risk. Brazilian officials said they would take legal action against any importer trying to use BSE claims to block imports of Brazilian beef, according to Reuters.

Japan imported 1,435 tonnes of Brazilian beef in 2011, according to Reuters.