For the first time, Italy has recorded a suspected BSE case beyond its mainland -- on the island of Sardinia. If confirmed, its would the country's 36th case, so far all confined to the peninsula and mainly in the North, sparing the major islands of Sardinia (some 150 miles off the mainland) and Sicily, both noted for their livestock.

The suspected case is in the central area of Nuoro, causing concern to health officials on how the disease could have possibly jumped such a long distance from the Italian mainland.

Health officials are now checking many animals in the area.

The news broke just when beef consumption was on an upswing, rising 2 % a week in October.

By Hilmi Toros, just-food.com correspondent