The European Union on Tuesday announced plans for a five-year ban on animal cloning for food production as well as a traceability system for imports of semen and embryos of clones.

"Cloning for food is not required" across the EU, European health commissioner John Dalli told a news conference. "There's no need for it."

The plan is to be published as legislative proposals next year but will need to be approved by EU governments and lawmakers.

It would enable cloning for uses other than food, such as reseach, conservation of endangered species or use of animals for the production of pharmaceuticals.

Food derived from the offspring of clones presents no risks and banning its import would be impossible because of traceability problems, the commissioner said.

The temporary suspension follows concerns that emerged in Britain last August when meat from the offspring of a cloned cow was put on the market by a Scottish dairy farm.

It also addresses concerns from animal welfare groups but may not go far enough for the European Parliament, which had called for a total ban on food derived from cloned animals.