The Agriculture Ministry requested earlier today that farmers do not send cattle over the age of 30 months to slaughterhouses, until a system to test for signs of BSE has been established.

Takehiko Endo, Senior Vice Agriculture Minister, told reporters that such a system “will take about one month to set up”.

The move has come in a bid to ease consumer fears about mad cow disease, after a five-year-old Holstein dairy cow from a farm in Chiba tested positive for BSE on 10 September. The case is the first of the disease in Asia, and the Agriculture Ministry is now checking cattle on other farms for signs of the disease.

Endo added that steps would be taken to ease the impact of the discovery of BSE on farmers. Following news coverage of the case retail sales of beef have dropped significantly and the government is planning to implement measures such as emergency loans for farmers, meat retailers and wholesalers, and meat processors.

Yesterday, a spokesman for the Agriculture Ministry revealed that the use of meat-and-bone meal (MBM) in feed products for cattle has been officially banned. There have been recommendations that farmers avoid using MBM since 1996, when experts linked the use of animal protein feed with the spread of the disease, but with yesterday’s announcement the recommendation became law.