LONDON (AP) -- Agriculture officials working to contain an outbreak of swine fever and water down a European Union ban on British pigs investigated reports Thursday that cases of the disease had been found in a new area of the country.
The EU placed a protective ban on shipments of live pigs and pig semen from England earlier this week after cases of the disease were found in Britain for the first time in 14 years. The curbs apply only to exports from England and not to pigs shipped from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
Some 12,000 pigs have been slaughtered so far in a bid to contain the outbreak. The government also restricted the movement of pigs and other livestock from areas hit by the disease.
"If we can convince our international trading partners that we are taking effective action, we will be better able to keep international trade controls to the minimum necessary," Agriculture Minister Nick Brown said.
The United States has gone even further than Europe, temporarily banning imports of British pig meat, as well as live pigs, semen and other swine products.
"Basically, we're waiting for more information from Britain to assess the situation," said Hallie Pickhardt, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
Canada banned pig meat and meat products, swine, semen and embryos, Canadian Food Inspection Agency spokesman Michel Carroll said. The embargo will be in effect for at least six months.
On Thursday, veterinary officials were conducting tests to determine whether cases of swine fever, which is fatal to pigs but cannot be transmitted to humans, had been located in Lincolnshire and Derbyshire in central England.
So far, the disease has been found at five farms, all in the East Anglia region of England. One of the farms is a breeding center that is believed to be the source of the outbreak.
The European ban runs until Aug. 31. But the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said the EU's veterinary committee might reduce the scope of the ban when it meets Tuesday, if Britain can contain the outbreak to one region.
"If there is only a one-point source, it will be easy to track through the records to see where the pigs have gone. That will make isolation easier," said Phil Saunders, a spokesman for the Meat and Livestock Commission.
The pig bans evoke memories of the EU's three-year ban on exports of British beef during the crisis over "mad cow" disease. They come just as British pig farmers were beginning to see a slight recovery in prices.
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