Snow Brand Food Co (SBF), a subsidiary of dairy giant Snow Brand, said earlier today [Monday] that it will halt production and sales of its beef products indefinitely.

In a press conference, it also confirmed that it is guilty of a second labelling scandal, in which meat from Hokkaido, northern Japan, was relabelled as coming from Kumamoto in the south. Japan's second case of mad-cow disease was found to have originated in Hokkaido in November last year and the company explained that its actions were taken after some buyers refused to take beef from the Hokkaido region.

Japan's sixth-largest meat packer admitted last week that it had falsely labelled 14 tons of imported Australian beef as domestic produce in a bid to gain subsidies through a government buyback scheme established after the outbreak of BSE.

The revelations have sent the company's shares tumbling to an all-time low, and earnings forecasts have been slashed as the full financial extent of the scandal is calculated. SBF senior executive Hiromi Sakurada said: "We will have to revise down our earnings (forecasts) sharply."

The decision to suspend beef production, which was taken after Japan's Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry asked SBF to voluntarily suspend its beef business on Friday, covers 230 product lines. These accounted for about 20%, or ¥17bn (US$127m), of the company's earnings last business year.

Beef production operations for consumer products stopped on 26 January. Production of business-use lines will cease tomorrow.