The testing programme for BSE in the European Union is likely to be widened after Germany slashed its minimum age for testing to 24 months. Agriculture ministers are currently in session in Brussels to discuss adopting more drastic measures to try and contain the spread of the disease, commonly known as mad cow disease.

EU officials approved a compulsory testing programme for cows over 30 months earlier this month (click here). It was assumed that meat from cattle younger than 30 months could safely be consumed without prior testing. However, the discovery of BSE in a cow of just 28 months has triggered a revised program by the German government – already weakened by the resignation of two cabinet ministers – and now other Member States are coming under pressure to follow suit.

A further extension of the testing initiative would be costly, but the interests of consumers safety may demand it. In Switzerland, two leading retailers have already taken an independent stance in a bid to restore consumer confidence. The two groups are testing all cows over 20 months before allowing their meat to reach stores.

New test developed

Meanwhile, a team of French scientists is investigating a new test which could prove crucial in the fight against BSE. According to the Daily Telegraph, the test offers the prospect of screening apparently healthy animals and humans for the disease before any symptoms occur. The team believe the test is better than those currently available and could help officials detect the scale of the potential human epidemic.