New Plymouth, New Zealand (AFP)--Agricultural authorities in New Zealand slaughtered 26 cattle Thursday following a foot and mouth scare, which turned out to be a false alarm. The Ministry of Agriculture said its exotic response team was called to the Universal Beef Packers plant in Te Kuiti, east of Auckland, by a veterinarian when a lesion was found on a cow bound for export.

But test results later in the day confirmed it was not foot and mouth and there was no evidence of infectious disease.

"In the absence of any infection, it is likely the healing wounds seen on a single animal were the result of trauma or the animal eating a caustic substance," the Agriculture Minister's press secretary, Cathie Bell, said.

She said a "gate control measure" was implemented at the works when a veterinarian discovered the skin irritations on the animal.

"No one was allowed in and no one was allowed out. All the animals in the works were put down," Bell said.

"It's an indication of our biosecurity measures at work."

Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Jim Sutton, speaking from China, said he was "tremendously relieved" that the animal had no disease and that the exotic disease response system had worked well.

The outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Britain earlier this year resulted in the dumping of 2.75 million carcasses.

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