The UK's Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has said the Progress Report on Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (published this week) for 2004 shows that the number of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) cases in domestic cattle continues to fall steeply, at a rate of about 40% per year.

"The encouraging reduction in BSE in cattle continues. This shows that the controls which have been put in place are continuing to have an important effect," Defra said.

The report outlines the measures which have been taken to protect public health during 2004. It describes the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)'s response in May 2004 to the paper the UK submitted in 2003, and EFSA's subsequent agreement in March 2005 that the UK can be considered as moderate risk for the whole cattle population. Defra described this as a significant step in the UK's efforts to secure the easing of the beef export ban.

The report outlines the further steps required before the ban can be eased. It also outlines the progress of the TSE surveillance programme, provides an overview of TSE research and sets out progress on the National Scrapie Plan, as well as continuing efforts to ensure compliance with the rules on specified risk material and animal feed.

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