WRAPUP 1-Brazil on the offensive to clear name over mad cow
* Brazil ag ministry, Japan officials meet over import ban
* Japan imports small amount heat-treated beef from Brazil
* Russia also considering import restrictions
By Peter Murphy and Osamu Tsukimori
BRASILIA/TOKYO, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Brazil is launching a diplomatic offensive to defend its huge beef industry and clarify details of an 'atypical case' of mad cow disease that prompted its top customer, Russia, to consider import restrictions after Japan suspended purchases altogether.
The 13-year-old cow kept for breeding purposes died of other causes in 2010 and never developed the disease, technically known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). But it tested positive for the disease's causal agent, a protein called a prion, which can arise spontaneously in elderly cattle.
In this condition, which was confirmed last week after tests by the World Animal Health Organization (OIE), animals are classified as having 'atypical BSE', which may or may not go on to cause the BSE disease, Brazilian agriculture officials say.
"The government as a whole is mobilized to give ample clarification over what happened, so that no doubts linger with regard to the safety of our animal health system," said Jose Carlos Vaz, the Agriculture Ministry's No. 2 official.
The outbreak of mad cow disease in Europe, North America and Japan over the past decade often prompted beef importers to embargo shipments and caused temporary chaos in the industry. Brazil is the world's largest beef exporter. Continued...