FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- With European reports of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as "mad cow disease," continuing to make headlines around the world, SN has found some U.S. shoppers are growing concerned that BSE could reach these shores (see story in Fresh Market, Page 29). Following the recent FDA quarantine of Texas cattle to determine whether they were fed beef by-products -- a possible source of infection -- SN conducted an informal poll on BSE among consumers here. All respondents were aware of the disease and many knew of at least some of its particulars, but shoppers varied widely in their degrees of concern about BSE and its human counterpart, new variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease. Here are some of their responses:
Cone Turner, 32, cook, Fayetteville
"I don't see why an outbreak couldn't happen here in small, isolated areas -- anything's possible. Our government will do what they can, but they can't inspect all cattle sold here."
Jennifer Summers, 38, small business owner, Fayetteville
"It could happen here, and the government would probably react extremely if it did. But I don't know how they could catch it before something bad had already taken place. I don't buy beef, anyway. This is another good argument for not eating beef."
Norma Dickerson, 43, teacher, Fayetteville
"It's possible that the disease could occur here since it's transmitted through animals. But our government is ready, in an emergency like that, to shut everything down."
Charles Summerhill, 46, chef, Fayetteville
"There's a very limited possibility of an outbreak happening in this country; I just don't see it happening on a wide-scale basis. I trust our government implicitly when it comes to the FDA and USDA. I know how good our local and state health departments are. As long as it's checked when leaving, say, France, and then re-inspected entering the U.S. -- however they inspect for mad cow disease -- I see no problem."
Brandon Fowler, 20, data processor, Bentonville
"It's not that easy to contain. If it came into this country it could spread anywhere if it's reprocessed into feed. I'm also distressed by the fact that it has such a high dormancy rate. How long have they been trying to keep it out of our system? It's very possible that it could have come over before the government became aware of it. But my opinions are based on articles in counterculture publications, and I'm not sure how biased they are."
Celia Scott-Silkwood, 45, county planning director, Fayetteville
"I think the possibility of a mad cow disease outbreak happening here is less than 1%, based on the news I've heard. I have to trust the government to control it because there's no one else. I think that they could effectively quarantine it, but bear in mind that I work for the government, so I'm going to think that they can do what they say they're going to do."
Bridgette Smith, 22, waitress, Fayetteville
"It's a possibility, but I'm not scared of it. If it's not mad cow disease, then it's somebody spraying pesticides on my food or someone using unsanitary food-handling practices. There's always something."
Judy Grisso, 61, housewife, Fayetteville
"It could happen here. A friend of mine in England kept me posted about how horrifying it was to be living in the middle of it. I've heard on the news that the native deer population may be infected, but I don't know how it's transmitted. The government is all we have to go on. Here in the middle of the poultry capital of the world, if they can put Simmons out of business because of a recall, we have to assume that they're vigilant."
Robyn Knapp, 24, sales coordinator, Bentonville
"There's a small possibility that the disease could occur here, but I really don't think there could be an epizootic because of our feeding practices. We don't get our supplies from infested areas, and we don't use bone meal in cattle feed. The government is keeping a close eye on it, so if there were a small outbreak it would be contained quickly."