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6 in 10 Consumers Back Testing for Mad Cow

Nearly 60 percent of Consumers Believe Cattle Should be Tested for Mad Cow Disease
7 in 10 willing to pay more for beef to support testing

To read the complete Consumers Union Mad Cow Disease Survey, click here.
January 27, 2004
Michael Hansen
office (914) 378-2452
cell ( 917)-774-3801
Susan Herold, 202-462-6262
(Washington, D.C.) — Seven in 10 adults who eat meat said they would pay more for beef to support testing of cattle to ensure they are free of Mad Cow disease, and an astonishing 95 percent of those adults said they would pay 10-cents more a pound to ensure their meat was safe, according to a new national poll by Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports.
The survey, conducted Jan. 14-21, also found that nearly 6 in 10 respondents strongly believe that all cows at slaughter should be tested for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, which causes the fatal disease. The findings support Consumers Union’s call for widespread mandatory “quick tests” for BSE on all cattle 20 months or older to ensure safety of the food supply. Currently, the USDA tests only 20,000 animals a year for the disease, less than one-tenth of a percent of cattle slaughtered.
“The public overwhelmingly supports testing to ensure that the beef they eat is safe, and what’s more important, this poll shows they are willing to put their money behind it,” said Michael Hansen, senior research associate.
The survey, which has a margin of error of 3 percentage points, also found that 89 percent of respondents strongly believe the U.S. Department of Agriculture should have the authority to recall contaminated meat from the food supply. Also, 78 percent strongly agree in the event of a recall, the USDA should make public the names of stores and restaurants where contaminated meat was sold. Currently, meat recalls are conducted by USDA on a voluntary basis, and the USDA has entered into secrecy agreements with several states to keep this information from reaching the public.
“Consumers expect the federal government to have the authority to recall contaminated meat, and most are shocked when they discover the USDA will only provide states with information about tainted product if they keep it secret,” Hansen said.
The survey shows that 8 in 10 respondents agree strongly that the FDA should prohibit the feeding of animal remains to cows. On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration issued a rule that took some steps to restrict feeding of animal remains to cattle, but did not fully ban this practice, as Consumers Union has asked for in the past.
To ensure the safety of the beef supply, Consumers Union and a coalition of consumer and food safety groups on Jan. 15 asked USDA Secretary Ann Veneman to immediately:
* Approve “quick tests” for BSE on cows over 20 months of age.
* Tag all cows at birth and track them to slaughter in one unified, national system.
* Strictly enforce the standard that no central nervous system is present in meat products, and ban spinal column or neck bones in Automated Meat Recovery.
* Seek support of the Bush Administration and Congress for recall authority and revoke agreements with states to keep this information confidential.