The European Union is considering changing its foot and mouth vaccination policy once the current epidemic in Europe is over.

Speaking after a meeting of EU farm ministers in Sweden on Tuesday, EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Safety David Byrne said that as research was accelerating the development of so-called “marker vaccines” able to distinguish between infected and vaccinated animals, the commission could be in a position to depart from a policy against generalized vaccination.

Generalised vaccination would make most animals in the EU non-exportable to some of the EU’s major markets.

Byrne said the epidemic had already cost the EU €250m (£235m) with that  figure not including Britain’s compensation to farmers for destroyed stock. He warned the final figure will a lot higher.

He reiterated that the EU was working extensively to restore confidence in meat product exports to other countries, but said until the UK outbreak is confined it would be hard to lift current restrictions.

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“We are working hard to convince third countries, like Japan and Russia, that exports from the community are safe,” said Byrne.

Canada and the US have cut off all of live animals and meat and dairy products from the EU, even from those 11 EU countries not affected by the disease.