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Japan decided Wednesday to temporarily halt imports of pork and pork products from the Netherlands following reports of a suspected outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease there, farm ministry officials said.

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry has stopped issuing quarantine certifications for Dutch pork and processed pork products such as sausages, they said.

The ban will be lifted when the ministry confirms there is no danger of an outbreak of the contagious disease.

Japan imported 10,153 tons of pork and 596 tons of pork products from the Netherlands in 2000.

Earlier this month, Tokyo imposed an import ban on French pork and pork products for the same reason. A similar ban was imposed on Britain in August.

In January, Japan banned imports of beef and beef products from the European Union following reports of an outbreak of mad cow disease in EU countries.

Foot-and-mouth is a highly contagious viral disease that causes blisters and fever in hoofed animals.

The disease, which is believed to pose no threat to public health, can be economically devastating for farmers.

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is suspected of causing variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the fatal human equivalent of mad cow disease.

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