The UNFAO has placed the international meat industry on high alert following a string of foot and mouth disease outbreaks.

The three recent outbreaks occurred in Japan and South Korea, but the UNFAO has issued an international warning because both countries had rigorous biosecurity in place, which should have prevented the occurrences.

In the past nine years, outbreaks in countries that are officially free of the disease, such as Japan and South Korea, had been extremely rare, said Juan Lubroth, the UNFAO's chief veterinary officer. "To have three such events in four months is a serious cause for concern."

Even one small outbreak could cause millions of dollars of losses as global markets closed and disease control measures were enforced, he warned. "We consider all countries at risk and a review of preventive measures and response capacity would be welcome."