The Food Standards Agency today welcomed the initiative by Commissioner David Byrne to tackle the spread of BSE across Europe.

The proposals are consistent with the Agency's recommendations arising from the current review of BSE controls. The most significant measures for consumer protection being proposed are:

· Controls to prevent over thirty month cattle from entering the food chain.

· A temporary ban on the feeding of meat and bonemeal to all farm animals.

· The inclusion of intestine to the list of specified risk materials that must be removed and destroyed.

These measures reflect current UK controls to protect the consumer.

The Agency sent a team to France today to check measures being proposed by the French authorities to control BSE. Any actions that may arise will now be dependent on the details of the Commission proposals. A SEAC sub-group is to meet on Tuesday 5th December to advise the Agency on risk assessments on imported beef and beef products.

Consumers who are concerned about BSE in France, or any other European country, are advised that it is illegal in the UK to sell over thirty month meat for human consumption and that the Agency has instructed local authorities to continue their increased levels of inspection.

Sir John Krebs, Chairman of the Food Standards Agency, said: "The Commission measures, if adopted, would provide effective protection for consumers against the spread of BSE across Europe. They are consistent with the Agency's advice. The key issues are when they are introduced and the effectiveness of the enforcement measures.

"We will be checking on the progress of these measures. If there are any doubts, either on the timing or implementation of the measures we will not hesitate to take action. However, almost half of UK food and animal feed is imported and the most effective protection for consumers lies in consistent, and effective, European action and controls reflecting our own best practice."

The European Scientific Steering Committee advised today that an increase in BSE in France and Ireland does not provide any new scientific evidence to support unilateral import bans. These increases were predicted in their risk analysis published July 2000.