Madcow disease is on the verge of being eradicated in Europe, the EU's executive arm said on Friday as it proposed an end to the systematic killing of entire herds when a sick cow is discovered.
"The European Union has made great progress in its battle against bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and we are finally on the brink of eradicating the disease within the Union," said European Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner John Dalli.
The European Commission said the "systematic cohort culling of cattle could be stopped" because of the dramatic drop in cases of BSE.
Animals from herds in which a cow suffered from the disease could be sold for consumption as long as they test negative before entering the food chain, it said.
The commission also proposed to relax a ban on animal protein used in pig and poultry feed that was imposed in 2001. This would allow pig meal to be fed to poultry and poultry meal to pigs.
But it would maintain a prohibition on "intra species recycling" the feeding of pig meal to pigs or poultry meal to poultry.
Madcow disease was first diagnosed in Britain in 1986 before spreading to the rest of Europe.
The EU slapped a total ban on exports of British live cattle in March 1996 at the height of the mad cow crisis, after London reported a link with a new form of Creutzfeldt Jakob disease (CJD) in humans, connected with eating BSE tainted beef.
The EU lifted the ban on British beef in 2006.