PARIS -- A day after the United States banned meat imports from the European Union because of foot-and-mouth disease, other nations Wednesday piled on restrictions that would likely further hurt an industry already reeling from the mad cow epidemic.
Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Norway became the latest nations to ban imports of livestock and meat products from the 15-nation EU, just a day after the highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease was found among cattle in northwestern France.
Hong Kong on Wednesday banned imports of live pigs, cattle, sheep and goats from France, and Singapore banned meat and dairy imports from France and Argentina, which has also reported at least one case of foot-and-mouth.
The bans come after the United States and Canada prohibited imports of livestock, fresh meat and dairy from the EU on Tuesday, hours after French officials confirmed the outbreak.
The EU called the bans excessive, since foot-and-mouth disease was still limited to Britain and France only.
"It is not proportionate," EU spokeswoman Beate Gminder said Wednesday. "The only outbreak is in Britain and France," adding the affected areas were under extremely high surveillance to try to contain the highly contagious disease.
French Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany said in an interview published Wednesday that France is "very exposed to risk" of more foot-and-mouth cases because of the 20,000 British sheep it imported in February that were scattered in 80 farms around the country.
The highly contagious disease -- not a danger to humans -- is ravaging herds in Britain, where at least 211 cases have been discovered. France's Feb. 29 decision to destroy British sheep, along with 30,000 French sheep, failed to keep the disease at bay.
Foot-and-mouth disease was diagnosed Tuesday in cows on a farm in the Mayenne region of northwestern France, next door to a farm that had British sheep in its herd.
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