Brazil's agriculture ministry said on Sunday that it will suspend beef exports to its top customer, China, after two separate cases of atypical mad cow disease were confirmed in two separate domestic meat plants.

Local restaurants selling beef balls and other affordable dishes will be affected the most, the president of the Institution of Dining Art, Simon Wong Kit-Lung, said. He said that beef imported from Brazil is widely used by local caterers, as it is cheaper. "I hope that the news won't increase prices further, as they has been rising recently," Wong said.

China and Hong Kong buy more than half of Brazil's beef exports.

The suspension is part of an animal health pact agreed upon by the two countries that allows Beijing time to take stock of the problem, which begins immediately, the ministry said in a statement. It added that China will decide when to begin importing again.

The two meat plants are located in the states of Mato Grosso and Minas Gerais, the report said. The two cases were confirmed on Friday after samples were sent to the World Organization for Animal Health lab in Alberta, Canada.

It is said to be the fourth and fifth cases of "atypical" mad cow disease that have been detected in Brazil in 23 years.

The ministry stated that atypical mad cow disease is a natural occurrence in cattle due to genetic and other factors that are unrelated to eating contaminated feed and does not threaten animal or human health.

Brazil has never reported a case of "classic" mad cow disease.