Mad cow has confidence stirred, but not shaken

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ-- According to a recent study conducted by Rutgers University's Food Policy Institute, most Americans know about the recent discovery of mad cow disease in Washington State, but retain their confidence in the beef supply.

Investigators confirmed the first and only known U.S. case of mad cow disease on a Washington State dairy farm in late 2003. Consumption of meat infected with mad cow disease is believed to result in a similar human condition known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), a rare and fatal brain disease for which there is no treatment or cure.

While news of the discovery immediately evaporated the $3 billion U.S. beef export market, Americans are relatively unperturbed. Most said their confidence in the beef supply has not changed, and some said the USDA's prompt and efficient treatment of the case has actually led to an increase in confidence.

"This isolated case is not enough to dramatically disturb domestic confidence in the beef supply," said Dr. William Hallman, lead author of the study at the Food Policy Institute at Rutgers' Cook College. "Unlike consumers in many countries, Americans have a history of trust in their food regulators, and have a strong belief that the U.S. food supply is safe.

Nearly 68 percent of those who had heard of the case said their confidence in the beef supply remains unchanged and 8 percent said their confidence has actually increased. One in five Americans (22 percent) said their confidence has decreased, albeit not by much. Only 7 percent said their confidence has decreased 'a great deal', while 15 percent said it has fallen 'some' or 'a little'.

However, this decline in confidence does seem to be accompanied by a decrease in beef consumption among those who are most concerned. About 14 percent said they are eating less beef and 5 percent said they had eliminated beef from their diets altogether.

While confirming the drop in stated consu

Contact: Michele Hujber
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey

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