The European Commission has proposed providing funds to Member States who have certified BSE testing methods for cattle over 30 months, to either store tested beef or destroy it, as part of their emergency programmes to fight the disease.

This new scheme replaces the existing regime, which has only funded the destruction of meat.

The proposal is expected to come into effect on 2 March, 2001. Member States will be responsible for 30% of the money, with the EU providing 70%.

Commissioner Franz Fischler said: “No one will be forced to destroy BSE-tested beef….we are talking about the most reasonable and cost efficient solution for un-saleable beef from older cattle which is already out there.”

By Monica Dobie, correspondent