New York, January 13, 2004 (ENS): One in every
five American adults say that fear of mad cow disease
will change their eating habits, according to results
of a recent Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive
Health-Care Poll. The nationwide poll of 2,378 U.S.
adults was conducted online between January 6 and 8
by Harris Interactive for the "Wall Street Journal
Online's Health Industry Edition."
The question asked was, "A cow was recently found
with mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy)
in Washington state. Do you think this will affect what
or where you eat, or does it make no difference?"
Twenty-one percent of respondents said their eating
patterns would change in response to the threat of mad
cow disease, a fatal brain-wasting illness that can
be transmitted to cattle or humans through consumption
of infected meat.
Seventy-eight percent of these people say that they
would eat less beef while 16 percent of them indicate
that they will stop eating beef altogether.
A majority of 88 percent expressed confidence that
the government will take necessary steps to avoid the
spread of mad cow disease in the United States - 45
percent say that they have a great deal of confidence,
and 43 percent say that they have some confidence.
Opinion is split as to whether the government's rules
for feeding cattle and inspecting beef have been too
lax or were sufficient. Forty-four percent of respondents
said the government's rules were too lax or lenient;
33 percent say the rules were sufficient; and 23 percent
were not sure.
"If the people who believe they will eat less
beef actually do so, beef sales will take a serious
short-term hit, and sales of poultry, lamb, pork and
fish will rise," says Humphrey Taylor, chairman
of The Harris Poll at Harris Interactive. "However,
if no further cases of mad cow disease are reported,
eating habits are likely to return to what they were
before very long."