The European Commission has announced that it is to develop five new tests for BSE, which will be more sophisticated than those currently used.

Brussels’ Health and Consumer Protection Directorate General will work with the Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements (IRMM) in Geel, Belgium. The tests are supposed to distinguish between BSE and related diseases such as scrapie. Field work will continue well into next year.

These new tests will build on recent improvements made to BSE tests in the EU, which led to the discovery of the first detected cases in Germany.

Consumer affairs Commissioner David Byrne said: “The introduction of testing for BSE in the EU has already had rapid beneficial results for the consumer.”

By Keith Nuthall, correspondent