South Korea said on Tuesday that foot-and-mouth had spread to a cattle farm in the country for the first time in more than three years, a blow to authorities battling to contain an outbreak of the disease.

The outbreak was discovered around half a year ago on hog farms, intensifying fears about food safety in a nation already grappling with bird flu.

The agriculture ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that the disease had been detected at a cattle farm in the city of Anseong, nearly 62 miles south of Seoul.

More than 26,000 hogs, or 0.3 percent of the country's total hog population, have been slaughtered as defense against foot-and-mouth, according to ministry data.

All the cases have involved a type of the disease that animals are inoculated against in South Korea, the ministry said.

Worries over livestock disease have helped boost meat imports.

South Korea's pork imports, mainly from the United States and Germany, rose 21 percent to 328,241 tonnes in the first 11 months of last year from the same period the year before, customs data showed.

The country's beef imports, mainly from Australia and the United States, also rose 6 percent to over 260,000 tonnes between January and November last year from a year earlier, the data showed.