Ireland is reported to be asking France for support to ramp up the Irish beef industry following concern over rising levels of BSE.

Ireland is currently listed as a low-risk area by the OIE (international veterinary organisation), but is worried it may lose this status as testing increases. Tests are now carried out on sick and dead animals not destined for the human food chain, and all animals over 30 months old are tested.

Before this new testing regime was implemented two years ago, Ireland reported fewer than 100 cases of BSE per year, but this rose to 149 in 2000 and 246 in 2001. So far this year, there have been 139 new cases.

The more active surveillance is throwing up more cases, and could lead the EU to re-grade the BSE status of certain countries. France, Germany and Ireland are reported to be asking for the grading system to be inspected.