Japan's health ministry claims it may have found another case of mad cow disease in a 23-month-old bullock slaughtered last month, bringing the total number of cases in Japan to eight.
According to reports in the Japanese press on Monday, ministry officials had said that the Holstein bullock, slaughtered on 29 September in Ibaraki Prefecture, some 100 kilometres northeast of Tokyo, tested positive in a preliminary test of bovine spongiform encephelopathy (BSE), If confirmed, it would be the world's youngest infected animal.
Mad cow disease has been linked to variant Creuzfeldt-Jakob Disease. No cases of the human form of the disease have been reported in Japan.
The officials explained that it was an unusual type of BSE and further tests were needed to confirm if it could be transferred to other animals.
Since October 2001 - following the identification of the first BSE case in September 2001 - every cow slaughtered for consumption in Japan has been screened for BSE.