The recommendation by the European Commission today for EU-wide measures on BSE means that other countries will now match the same levels of BSE control as in Britain, the NFU said.

NFU President Ben Gill said: "These measures should provide European consumers with the same level of security as those in the UK.

"This is something the NFU has been pressing for and is extremely good news. It shows the Commission has reacted to the rising number of BSE cases in other countries."

Britain has not fed meat and bonemeal to any farm animal since 1 August 1996 and since April 1996 a scheme has been in place to take animals over thirty months old out of the food chain.

Mr Gill added: "What we hope now is that these measures will help restore confidence across Europe about beef, which is a good thing for all farmers, including British ones.

"It shows that BSE is a pan-European problem and therefore the measures of control should be pan-European not unilateral."

The proposals will now go to the Agriculture Council on Monday for approval.