Americans don’t pass steaks
By Jane Han
NEW YORK -- The latest mad cow disease outbreak in the United States is making headlines worldwide, but Cynthia Hufty piles four packs of T-bone steak into her shopping cart Friday afternoon.
``It’s steak night at my house tonight. Mad cow? I’m not worried,’’ says the homemaker, 43, shopping at a grocery store in lower Manhattan. ``I’m not going to turn into a vegetarian all of a sudden out of fear. That’s ridiculous.’’
The newest case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), which goes by the street name mad cow disease, was confirmed in a California dairy cow, Tuesday, setting off international concerns over the safety of U.S. beef.
Indonesia and Thailand suspended imports of American beef following the news, while South Korean authorities immediately stepped up inspection.
Consumers in South Korea showed fear and reluctance to buying U.S. beef, which prompted the nation’s top retailers to remove American meat from store shelves.
Some civic groups are even planning candlelight protests against U.S. beef imports.
All this heat and noise across the ocean, but it’s business as usual right here in the United States.
``We’re not seeing any less people shopping in the meat section,’’ says a butcher at Big Y Supermarket, a grocery chain in North Haven, Connecticut. ``Really, it’s just like any other typical day.’’
John Atwood, manager at a local grocery store in New Jersey, said sales have even gone up this week.
``Grilling season is here so we’re actually seeing more people than before,’’ he said, adding that some shoppers are probably not even aware of the news.
American consumers have a record of showing a muted response to mad cow disease.
When the first case of the brain-wasting disease was reported in the U.S. in 2003, few Americans changed their eating habits.
The American Farm Bureau Federation, the nation’s largest farm group, surveyed 1,000 consumers immediately after the outbreak and found that 74 percent continued to eat beef despite discovery of the fatal disease.
The latest infection is the fourth case of mad cow found in the United States and the first outbreak in six years.
``A case of a single cow with BSE is not a reason for significant concern on the part of consumers, and there is no reason to believe the beef or milk supply is unsafe,’’ Sarah Klein, food safety attorney at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer group, said in a statement.
Many experts are echoing the same opinion, further dampening lingering public concerns.
``Driving a car also carries the risk of a car crash, but that does not mean I’ll stop using cars altogether,’’ a user named David wrote on an online forum discussing mad cow disease. ``It’s really not worth all this fuss.’’