The decision is worth pounds 10m a year to the beef industry which is already celebrating a vote of confidence from burger rival McDonald's worth pounds 30m.
Burger King said yesterday that its announcement was not merely a knee- jerk response to the McDonald's move, but was the result of lengthy negotiations with officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and the Northern Ireland and UK Meat and Livestock Commissions.
The fast-food chain has asked officials and suppliers to set up a system of tracing meat and guaranteeing that it conforms to standards laid down by the company. Under the Burger King Quality Assurance Scheme, all meat used by the company would come from the flank and forequarters of animals less than 30 months old.
The National Farmers' Union described Burger King's decision as "fantastic news", but the families of many victims of new variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease remain convinced that their relatives contracted the disease from eating beef infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). They are angry that the burger chains have given the impression that all British beef is safe.
But Burger King's managing director David Williams said the decision was based on research which showed 73 per cent of customers supported the return of British beef as long as the meat was backed up by a farm assurance scheme.
"Up to 50 per cent of the beef used in our burgers will be British, the remainder will continue to come from approved suppliers in the EU meeting all UK requirements," he said.
British beef will be reintroduced to the 429 Burger King outlets across the country in the next few weeks.