China has announced that it is imposing a ban on imports of British beef following the confirmation of a single case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in Somerset last month.

The announcement was made yesterday, Monday, October 11, and the ban took effect from September 29, according to a statement on the official WeChat account of the General Administration of Customs.

Reuters has reported the ban will apply to British beef from cattle under 30 months of age.

Reuters outlined that the move comes despite the fact that China has yet to restart buying beef from the UK after agreeing in 2019 to lift a ban on British beef imposed in the 1990s during earlier outbreaks of mad cow disease.

The single case of classical BSE was confirmed on a farm in  Somerset on September 17.

In a statement on the matter, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs
(Defra) said the animal in question was dead and was removed from the farm, stressing that the incident caused no risk to food safety.

There have been five cases of confirmed BSE in the UK since 2014, the UK department said, adding that all cases were in animals “which, as fallen stock, were not destined for the human food chain and posed no risk to the general public”.

Commenting following the incident, the English chief veterinary officer, Christine Middlemiss said:

A single case of classical  BSE has been confirmed on a farm in Somerset. The animal died on farm and was tested as part of our TSE surveillance controls.

“Movement restrictions have been put in place on the farm. This is standard procedure until we have a clear understanding of the origin of the disease. This is further proof that our surveillance system for detecting and containing this type of disease is working.

We recognise this will be a traumatic time for the farmer and we are on hand to offer advice through this difficult period.

“The UK’s overall risk status for BSE remains at ‘controlled’ and there is no risk to food safety or public health,” Middlemiss added.

Last month, Brazil halted its beef exports to China following confirmation of two cases of ‘atypical’ BSE at separate abattoirs.