Potatoes imported from Germany will be subject to increased checks due to fears that a highly contagious potato disease could spread to the UK.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) explained that the potato ring rot bacterium had been discovered in consignments from Germany.

The disease is widely recognised as one of the most serious in potatoes, and Defra has introduced a requirement to notify the plant health service at least two days before imports are due, to "enable plant health and seeds inspectors to monitor the potatoes on arrival and take samples as necessary to ensure that they are free from ring rot."

The disease, which is spread by infected tubers and by contaminated machinery, is not dangerous to human consumers.