Quarter of Japanese stop eating beef after BSE found: poll

October 17, 2001 Agence France Presse by Rob Zaleski
One quarter of Japanese responding to an opinion poll said they have stopped eating beef since the discovery of Japan's first case of mad cow disease, the Asahi Shimbun said Wednesday.

The poll also found that another 34 percent of respondents were eating less beef, while only 26 percent continued to eat as much beef as they had before the BSE scare emerged, the paper said.

Tokyo announced on September 10 that brain tissue from a Holstein dairy cow raised in Chiba prefecture east of Tokyo had tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease. A British research institute later confirmed the infection, the first case outside Europe.

Last Friday, the government announced that another cow was suspected of having the disease. The animal later tested negative.

But Japanese consumers are still wary, despite official reassurances that beef and milk are safe as they are not considered routes of BSE infection.

The Asahi poll found that 89 percent of respondents were very or somewhat concerned about mad cow disease.

Unease was highest among agricultural workers and related industries, with 65 percent of such respondents expressing concern, followed by 60 percent of housewives.

There was also strong disapproval of the government's handling of the incipient crisis, with 82 percent saying they had problems with the way authorities had reacted.

Initial official statements that the infected animal's carcass had been incincerated turned out to be incorrect, and officials admitted organs and meat from the second suspect cow were not removed from the processing and distribution chain before the results of the tests were known.

There was little concern about dairy produce according to the poll with 75 percent of respondents saying they continued to consume milk and other dairy products.

BSE is a brain-wasting illness linked to the fatal variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. The condition has killed about 100 people in Britain since the mid-1980s.

The Asahi polled 2,000 people by telephone over the weekend and drew valid responses from 57 percent.

Since the first case of BSE was confirmed in Japan, six countries -- the United States, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan -- have banned Japanese beef.

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