While news coverage of bovine spongiform encephalopathy has been extensive in recent weeks, Americans remain confident in the beef supply. In June, USDA officials announced the second U.S. case of BSE had been confirmed, in a sample from an animal that first tested negative in November 2004. Most recently, officials reported another suspect test, which has since been found negative this week.
Despite the potential for an adverse reaction to these events, consumers seem to understand that with firewalls and safeguards in place, BSE does not pose a threat to food safety nor to human or animal health.
A consumer tracking survey conducted June 27-29 found that news coverage has not affected consumer confidence that U.S. beef is safe from BSE. The Cattlemen’s Beef Board funded the latest survey, which was managed by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. However, it was conducted by the marketing research firm Ipsos.
The telephone survey of 927 adults found that 92 percent of American consumers believe that U.S. beef is safe from "mad cow disease", a commonly used name for BSE. The confidence level in U.S. beef safety has remained strong (averaging 91 percent) since the first U.S. BSE case in December 2003.
The continued high confidence level came despite more consumers knowing about BSE. A survey conducted in May found 64 percent of consumers had "heard something about mad cow disease." But in the June survey, that number had risen to 81 percent.
With regard to USDA, 89 percent of consumers say it is doing a good job of protecting U.S. cattle from getting BSE, while 90 percent say it is doing a good job of protecting the public from exposure to the disease.