Fears over mad cow disease continue to hold back sales of beef despite a slight recovery in consumption figures for the meat in the last month.

The European Commission said today (Tuesday) that beef consumption was now down by an average of 18% across the bloc compared with a decrease of 23% in March. The rise in consumption might be temporary however because of the Easter holidays.

Germany is suffering the most from the mad cows crisis with beef sales still down by some 40% compared with levels before the latest crisis. Consumption was 30% lower in Italy and 20% down in Spain, France and Portugal.

The EU remains unable to export most of its beef as its trading partners have closed their borders to EU meat as a result of the BSE and foot and mouth crisis. The Commission said the EU had lost some 94% of its beef exports, 73% of its pork exports and 31% of its poultry exports.

The Commission was hopeful that the Russian and Japanese governments would soon lift the embargoes put in place after the recent food crises. Veterinary experts from those countries had been inspecting individual member states to assess the possibility of relaxing their bans.