Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, returned from holiday early to chair an emergency meeting about the outbreak.
"Our first priority has been to act quickly and decisively," Brown said.
"I can assure people ... we are doing everything in our power to look at the scientific evidence and to get to the bottom of what has happened and then to eradicate this disease."
Authorities set up a protection zone round the infected farm and the Pirbright research site. The infected cattle have been slaughtered.
|"Our first priority has been to act quickly and decisively" |
Gordon Brown, British prime minister
Movement of all pigs, sheep and cattle throughout the country was also banned as a further precautionary measure.
"The foot and mouth strain found in Surrey is not one currently known to be recently found in animals," the environment ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
"It is most similar to strains used in international diagnostic laboratories and in vaccine production, including at the Pirbright site shared by the Institute of Animal Health (IAH) and Merial Animal Health Ltd, a pharmaceutical company."
The laboratory has decided to halt vaccine production as a precautionary measure.
The US and Japan placed a ban on British pigs and pork products on Saturday, adding to an existing ban on British beef in both countries because of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad-cow disease.
The US department of agriculture said that it was barring all products derived from foot and mouth-susceptible species in Britain.
Foot and mouth disease causes high fevers and blisters in cloven-hoofed animals and can often lead to death.
It can be contracted by cattle, pigs, sheep and goats, and very rarely by people.
The disease spreads fairly easily as it can be carried on the wheels of vehicles, in livestock units, on shoes and even on the wind, officials said.
The 2001 outbreak started with a pig herd in northern England and spread to cows and sheep.
It eventually infected more than 2,000 farms, shutting Britain out of the world's livestock export markets and significantly harming the tourist industry.