Statements published in the Wall Street Journal claiming that mad cow disease could have been exported to Chile through European beef surpluses were declared unfounded by the Chilean Ministry of Agriculture. The ministry also dismissed fears expressed by Chilean cattle farmers about a possible outbreak of the disease in their livestock.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Agriculture and Livestock Service (SAG) are currently studying the newspaper’s claims. “Let us put the matter in perspective,” said Agriculture Minister Jaime Campos. “The fears are unfounded and the claims imaginary.” He explained that meat and cattle of European origin have been prohibited from entering Chile for nearly a decade.

According to Agriculture Undersecretary Arturo Barrera, the government policy is to ban beef imports within 24 hours from any country that reports any cases of mad cow disease.

By Steve Anderson, correspondent