U.S. Consumer Confusion About Livestock Diseases May Begin to Affect Food Purchases

New Survey Points to Need for More Consumer

Education to Address Misconceptions, and Indicates

U.S. Federal Agencies Most Trusted Source of Information



Apr 19, 2001, 01:00 ET from Porter Novelli

    WASHINGTON, April 19 /PRNewswire/ -- American consumer misconceptions
 about Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, and foot-
 and-mouth disease (FMD) may be beginning to impact purchase of beef and other
 animal products, according to a survey just released by Porter Novelli.  A
 small percentage of those surveyed (14 percent) said they already have changed
 their food purchase or eating habits based on reports they had recently seen
 or heard regarding BSE and FMD.
     The survey, conducted among primary food shoppers, underscores the need
 for more public education to help consumers understand distinctions between
 the two conditions, and to allay unnecessary fear when purchasing animal
 products in the United States.
     "American consumers understandably are very confused," said Dan Snyder,
 director of Porter Novelli Washington's Food, Beverage and Nutrition Practice.
 "The U.S. must stay vigilant to ensure that we prevent BSE and FMD from
 entering our food supply.  At the same time, our survey indicates the need for
 a national consumer education campaign to help clear up the confusion."
 
     Responses Indicate Consumers Do Not Distinguish Between BSE and FMD
     As an example of the confusion, shoppers' response to a question asking
 what actions they would take if BSE were found in the U.S., and asking the
 same if FMD were found in the U.S., were very similar.  Even though FMD cannot
 infect humans, there was little difference in the responses: 71 percent
 indicated they would eliminate or reduce ground beef from their diet if FMD
 were found in U.S. livestock, and 80 percent indicated the same if BSE were
 found in U.S. livestock.  Additionally, approximately half of all respondents
 said they would eliminate or reduce their consumption of other animal
 products, such as other meat, chicken, milk and cheese -- again, there was
 little difference between responses to the question on BSE and the parallel
 question on FMD.
 
     The survey also shows that:
 
     *  19 percent incorrectly thought that BSE and FMD were the same
     *  27 percent incorrectly thought there was a direct link between the two
     *  46 percent incorrectly thought that cows with FMD could infect humans
 
     Whom Do Consumers Trust for Information?
     When asked whom they would trust most to assure them that FMD is not
 contagious to humans, the survey respondents cited U.S. government agencies
 first and foremost -- such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and
 Drug Administration or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- followed
 by physicians and independent scientists.
 
     About Porter Novelli
     With an approach to public relations grounded in the marketing discipline,
 Porter Novelli International (http://www.porternovelli.com ) serves clients
 through its 19 U.S. offices and through top-rated national practices in
 sectors including consumer marketing, health care, food and nutrition and
 technology.  Among the specialized services the company provides to increase
 the effectiveness of PR programs are interactive, creative, advocacy
 advertising, public affairs and research.  Porter Novelli is one of the
 leading public relations agencies in the U.S., and operates worldwide as
 Porter Novelli International.  PNI has 100 offices in 50 countries and is one
 of the world's top 10 public relations firms.
 
     The Porter Novelli survey was conducted by Opinion Research Corporation
 International April 6-9, 2001 by telephone to a random, national probability
 sample of 815 primary food shoppers (451 women and 364 men).  The margin of
 error is +/- 3 percent.
 
 

SOURCE Porter Novelli
    WASHINGTON, April 19 /PRNewswire/ -- American consumer misconceptions
 about Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, and foot-
 and-mouth disease (FMD) may be beginning to impact purchase of beef and other
 animal products, according to a survey just released by Porter Novelli.  A
 small percentage of those surveyed (14 percent) said they already have changed
 their food purchase or eating habits based on reports they had recently seen
 or heard regarding BSE and FMD.
     The survey, conducted among primary food shoppers, underscores the need
 for more public education to help consumers understand distinctions between
 the two conditions, and to allay unnecessary fear when purchasing animal
 products in the United States.
     "American consumers understandably are very confused," said Dan Snyder,
 director of Porter Novelli Washington's Food, Beverage and Nutrition Practice.
 "The U.S. must stay vigilant to ensure that we prevent BSE and FMD from
 entering our food supply.  At the same time, our survey indicates the need for
 a national consumer education campaign to help clear up the confusion."
 
     Responses Indicate Consumers Do Not Distinguish Between BSE and FMD
     As an example of the confusion, shoppers' response to a question asking
 what actions they would take if BSE were found in the U.S., and asking the
 same if FMD were found in the U.S., were very similar.  Even though FMD cannot
 infect humans, there was little difference in the responses: 71 percent
 indicated they would eliminate or reduce ground beef from their diet if FMD
 were found in U.S. livestock, and 80 percent indicated the same if BSE were
 found in U.S. livestock.  Additionally, approximately half of all respondents
 said they would eliminate or reduce their consumption of other animal
 products, such as other meat, chicken, milk and cheese -- again, there was
 little difference between responses to the question on BSE and the parallel
 question on FMD.
 
     The survey also shows that:
 
     *  19 percent incorrectly thought that BSE and FMD were the same
     *  27 percent incorrectly thought there was a direct link between the two
     *  46 percent incorrectly thought that cows with FMD could infect humans
 
     Whom Do Consumers Trust for Information?
     When asked whom they would trust most to assure them that FMD is not
 contagious to humans, the survey respondents cited U.S. government agencies
 first and foremost -- such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and
 Drug Administration or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- followed
 by physicians and independent scientists.
 
     About Porter Novelli
     With an approach to public relations grounded in the marketing discipline,
 Porter Novelli International (http://www.porternovelli.com ) serves clients
 through its 19 U.S. offices and through top-rated national practices in
 sectors including consumer marketing, health care, food and nutrition and
 technology.  Among the specialized services the company provides to increase
 the effectiveness of PR programs are interactive, creative, advocacy
 advertising, public affairs and research.  Porter Novelli is one of the
 leading public relations agencies in the U.S., and operates worldwide as
 Porter Novelli International.  PNI has 100 offices in 50 countries and is one
 of the world's top 10 public relations firms.
 
     The Porter Novelli survey was conducted by Opinion Research Corporation
 International April 6-9, 2001 by telephone to a random, national probability
 sample of 815 primary food shoppers (451 women and 364 men).  The margin of
 error is +/- 3 percent.
 
 SOURCE  Porter Novelli