THE OVER-30 months scheme will come to an end in the “latter half of 2005”, the government has confirmed.

DEFRA and the Department of Health have issued a joint statement which reveals that the scheme, introduced in 1996 as a BSE control, will finally come to an end.

It will be replaced by a system of BSE testing for cattle born on or after Aug 1, 1996.

Only cattle for which there is a negative test result will be sold for human consumption.

DEFRA secretary Margaret Beckett said the decision reflected the falling number of BSE cases in the UK.

But she stressed that the final switchover would not take place until the Food Standards Agency said it was happy with the testing system in place.

“This decision follows our successful efforts toward eradicating BSE in UK cattle. We will be developing a robust testing system.

“We will also be working in Brussels to ensure that beef from UK cattle born on after Aug 1, 1996 can be exported as soon as possible after it becomes eligible for sale in the UK.”

DEFRA anticipates if the OTM scheme can be abolished in the latter half of 2005 then changes in export restrictions will follow in late 2005.

DEFRA will consult with the beef industry and the EU Commission about a successor OTM scheme for cattle born before Aug 1, 1996.