ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- One in every five American adults (21 percent) say that fear of mad cow disease will change their eating habits, according to results of a recent Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive Healthcare Poll.
Most (78 percent) of these people say that they would eat less beef while 16 percent of them indicate that they will stop eating beef altogether.
Nonetheless, a sizeable majority (88 percent) has confidence that the government will take necessary steps to avoid the spread of mad cow disease in the United States - 45 percent say that they have a great deal of confidence and 43 percent say that they have some confidence.
This nationwide poll of 2,378 U.S. adults was conducted online Jan. 6-8, 2004 by Harris Interactive for The Wall Street Journal Online's Health Industry Edition.
Opinion is split as to whether the government's rules for feeding cattle and inspecting beef have been too lax or were sufficient:
-- A 44 percent plurality states that the government's rules were too lax or
-- 33 percent say the rules were sufficient;
-- 23 percent were not sure.
"If the people who believe they will eat less beef actually do so, beef sales will take a serious short-term hit, and sales of poultry, lamb, pork and fish will rise," says Humphrey Taylor, chairman of The Harris Poll at Harris Interactive. "However, if no further cases of mad cow disease are reported, eating habits are likely to return to what they were before very long."