European food safety experts have decided not to relax BSE rules, despite strong lobbying by the beef industry in Britain.

They have dismissed new science, concluding there is no reason to suppose it is safe to raise the age limit for removing a carcase's spinal cord and other SRM from 24 months to 30 months, as many had hoped.

The report, which was delayed several times by EFSA, has angered farmers and beef processors.

They want a return to the upper age limit, which was in force in the UK until exports reopened in May 2006.

NFU livestock board chairman Thomas Binns said: "This is an overly cautious approach and we are disappointed this report doesn't go any further.

"There is no improvement on the positive position of April 2005 when we got the green light to restart exports. The rules in place have to be proportionate to the risk and we shouldn't be afraid of relaxing them when new science indicates it is safe to do so."