THE BAN ON beef from cattle more than 30 months old should be lifted says the Food Standards Agency. The slaughter of older cattle, up to seven years old, could release more than 150,000 tons of beef to retail from January 2004. The ban was introduced at the height of the BSE crisis and will be replaced by tests for BSE after the animals are slaughtered.

The move will save the government £300 million a year. Risk assessments suggest it could result in 2.5 extra cases of vCJD over the next 60 years. A ban on feeding meat and bone meal to farm animals will continue as will precautionary measures such as removing the spinal cord.

The FSA decided that, if ministers back their recommendations, an independent review should be set up to monitor the testing system and report back on a monthly basis.