Fear of the spread of BSE outside Europe has led the Australian government to insist that all beef imports are checked for signs of the disease.

The move extends the import restrictions imposed in January this year, when exporter countries were classified in terms of four levels of BSE-risk.

The government said yesterday that all exporter countries will have to meet scientific assessment for mad cow disease and if they are unable to give proof of a BSE-free status then their products will be removed from the shelves.

The Australian Consumers' Association admits that it is concerned that the new measures still do not go far enough to counter the threat of mad cow disease.