It’s official: in Europe, at least, sheep cannot develop BSE.

Children with an expanded vocabulary will not be surprised, seeing as BSE is bovine spongiform encephalitis. But British scientists had claimed that an ovine form of the disease could and did exist.

That was before it was discovered that these allegations were based on test errors, but the European Union has been double-checking anyway. Now its scientific steering committee has ruled that sheepmeat is BSE free and so “sheep casings should not be included in the list of specified risk materials in relation to BSE.”

It added that there is “no evidence that BSE is present in small ruminants under field conditions, and there is no indication that this could happen in the future.”

By Keith Nuthal, correspondent