US meat processor Cargill is to lay off around 400 workers at its beef processing plant in Alberta, Canada because of ongoing bans on importing Canadian beef in the US and other countries.

The US placed a temporary ban on imports of Canadian beef last week after a cow in Alberta tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.

Albert Johnson, president of the union which represents the 1,600 employees at the plant, said 72 people were laid off last week and an additional 300-350 are to be laid off now. He added that Cargill is to slow down slaughter from 4,000 cattle a day to 3,000.

The company is likely to assess the damage to its business once the borders reopen and will then decide whether to re-hire any of the workers, reported Dow Jones Commodities Service.