France's agriculture ministry confirmed on Thursday that a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, had been discovered in the northeastern region of Ardennes.

The suspected case, found in a five-year-old cow, was identified last week during a test carried out on cattle older than 48 months after slaughter.

The farm ministry said there was no risk to human health as all parts of the cow susceptible to being infected must be removed by slaughter houses.

"The detection of this case does not affect the consumer," it said in a statement. "Beef consumption is safe for humans."

However, the outbreak is likely to affect French exports, the ministry said on its website, because the country's official BSE risk level assigned by the OIE would be changed.

"Depending on countries, export conditions of French cattle could be modified," it said.

Last year France regained the safest BSE rating of "negligible risk" as it was able to demonstrate that the last infected native animal was born more than 11 years ago.

Several countries including South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Singapore lifted embargos on French beef following the OIE decision.

BSE was first detected in Britain in the late 1980s, spreading from there to other parts of Europe and ravaging cattle herds until the early 2000s. It has been linked to the brain-wasting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.

The latest case in France did not point to any rebound in the disease, the OIE said.

OIE data showed just six cases of BSE worldwide in 2015, of which four were in the EU. That was down from 1,957 in 2000, 561 in 2005 and 125 in 2008.

"The risk management and monitoring systems set up in the early 2000s have shown their effectiveness considering the drastic reduction of cases," an OIE spokeswoman said.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; editing by Jason Neely)