CARACAS, July 26 (Xinhua) -- The Venezuelan government suspended on Wednesday meat imports from Colombia, for six months, due to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.
In a public speech, Agriculture Minister Wilmar Castro announced the decision to ban beef, pork, lamb and goat meat imports due to the disease being present in the neighboring country.
Several other countries, including Mexico and Russia, have taken similar steps after at least cases of the disease were detected in the Colombian provinces of Arauca, Cundinamarca, Caldas, Antioquia and Santander.
The disease is rarely harmful to humans since it dies during the pasteurization of milk and the processing of meat.
"This ban on agricultural products from Colombia will be maintained for six months until Colombian authorities can control the outbreak of the disease," said Castro, adding that Venezuelan territory was 95 percent free of foot-and-mouth disease.
Colombia has taken steps to address concerns, stating that they feared the disease had been brought into the country illegally through cattle smuggled the border. It has begun more aerial surveillance of its borders and all people crossing between Colombia and Venezuela must cross a disinfectant mat while vehicles will be sprayed down.
This comes at a time of high tensions between Colombia and Venezuela. At the end of June, Colombian Agriculture Minister Aurelio Iragorri Valencia insinuated the disease had come from Venezuela, with an early case being reported in the frontier state of Arauca.