This year will see the highest ever number of confirmed BSE cases in Irish cattle, according to the latest Republic of Ireland figures.

According to the Irish Department of Agriculture, the total number of cases of BSE detected so far this year has reached 246, which is the same figure for all of 2001, itself a record year. A total of 421,000 tests have been carried out on Irish cattle so far this year, compared with 660,000 tests in total in 2001.

Worryingly, several cows born after the introduction of tighter controls on animal feeds in 1996 are testing positive for BSE.

By Jonathan Thomson, correspondent