The Taiwanese authorities have reinstated a ban on US beef after the US Department of Agriculture confirmed a second case of mad-cow disease, the Taipei Times reported.

"For everybody's safety, we hereby announce an end to imports of US beef because of a second confirmed case of mad-cow disease in the US," cabinet spokesman Cho Jung-tai said.

Cho urged the public not to panic and said that all US beef in stock at present could be safely eaten because all of the beef was boneless meat from cows younger than 30 months, unlike the cow that has sparked the latest scare.

"However, because a new case of mad-cow disease has been confirmed, we must announce the ban on US beef," Cho said.

Premier Frank Hsieh said that the government was simply taking all necessary precautions to prevent the potential spread of the disease, but that current stocks should be of no concern. "British research and experiments showed that it is quite impossible for younger cows to have mad-cow disease, and that is why we only imported those cows that are younger than 30 months," Hsieh said. "The meat we have at shops now is safe. No problem."

Bureau of Food Safety director Chen Lu-hung said that Taiwan is the first country to reapply the ban on US beef since the confirmation of the diagnosis was made public. "Countries like Canada and Mexico say that they will continue to import US beef despite confirmation of the disease," Chen said.

The first case of the disease in the US was confirmed on 24 December 2003. Taiwan banned US beef a week later. The US Department of Agriculture then filed a request to Taiwan's Department of Health on 29 March last year to lift the ban, but the request was not granted until 16 April this year.

The decision to lift the ban has been criticized because of concerns that the disease could spread to Taiwan anyway.

Current regulations require that US beef imports be boneless meat from cows younger than 30 months.

American Institute in Taiwan Director Douglas Paal helped to promote US beef on 16 June while attending the 2005 Taipei International Food Show.

"American beef is 100% safe," he had said in Mandarin, eating slices of beef for the media.

Several members of the Consumers' Foundation yesterday harshly criticized the Department of Health's earlier decision to lift the ban.

The foundation urged the government to recall all US beef already on store shelves "in consideration of local consumers' health," adding that it might mobilize consumers to boycott US beef if the government did not do so.

Foundation vice chairman Cheng Hung-jen said that nobody could be certain about the incubation period, and he claimed the lifting of the ban had come about through "political considerations."