The UK Food Standards Agency is considering two independent scientific assessments of the ongoing danger posed by BSE.

The FSA has established a special assessment committee to consider to what extent it is appropriate to relax anti-BSE measures now in place. The two studies confirm that the number of BSE-infected animals entering the food chain has now decreased to levels almost too low to be measured, namely less than one per year.

The Western Daily Press reported that the FSA's special committee is likely to mull for some time whether it is now appropriate to recommend easing controls, which include the rigorous Over Thirty Months Scheme (OTMS). The decision-making process could well last into the spring of next year, and many more months could then pass while the government considers the advice of the FSA committee.

Many farmers will not be hoping for a swift decision, as the OTMS is currently being funded by the EU to the tune of millions of pounds every year. Once the meat has been given the all-clear, such financial support from the EU would no longer be forthcoming as it would constitute unfair support of an individual EU market to the detriment of others.

As a result, older beef would become available on the market, where supply already outstrips demand, leading to further drops in income for farmers and distributors.