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One-Third Call Mad Cow Disease a Crisis, But Few Eating Less Meat

Jan. 9, 2004 -- Most Americans are not concerned about the recent mad cow scare, a new Gallup survey shows.

The nationwide survey of 1,000 adults -- conducted the first week of January after the case was discovered -- showed that only one in three Americans view the mad cow situation as a "major problem" or "crisis."

Just one in six expressed worry that they or their families might become victims of the disease. Similar numbers of Americans reported cutting back or no longer eating meat because of their concerns.

The survey shows, in general, Americans are aware of mad cow disease. Gallup researchers found:

  • 55% had heard a "great deal" about mad cow disease.
  • 33% said they had heard a "moderate" amount about it.

However, about two-thirds of Americans -- 65% -- said the situation isn't worrisome. Specifically, 53% said it was a "minor problem" and 12% said it was "not a problem at all." While only 6% said the situation was a "crisis" in the U.S., and 28% said it was a "major" problem.

Gallup researchers found a modest degree of worry:

  • 16% said they were "very" or "somewhat worried" about becoming victims. While 48% survey said they were "not worried at all" that someone in their family would become a victim of mad cow disease.
  • 17% said they have "cut back" or "stopped eating" meat. While the majority of those surveyed (81%) said the news of mad cow disease "made no difference" in their consumption of meat.

In fact, more Americans had cut back on eating meat during the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Great Britain almost three years ago.

A Gallup poll taken in March 2001 showed that 24% of Americans had cut back on meat because of concern about mad cow disease and foot-and-mouth disease. This compares with 17% in the current poll who have cut back because of mad cow concerns.

In general, women are a bit more likely than men to consider mad cow disease a major problem or worse -- and to express worry about becoming a victim. Women are also slightly more likely to cut back on eating meat, the survey showed.

  • 40% of women, compared with 26% of men, say the mad cow situation in this country is a major problem.
  • 21% of women are "very" or "somewhat" worried that they or a family member will become victims of the disease compared with 12 % of men.
  • 20% of women eat less meat because of their concern compared with only 14% of men.

Overall, better-informed people were no more worried than less-informed Americans, Gallup says.

SOURCE: Gallup News Service.

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