Consumers grow increasingly edgy with each new food scare, real or imagined. To be sure, Europeans this week were seeking answers with the re-emergence of another frightening food-borne specter.
In the wake of a rising number of Mad Cow disease cases, France has banned the sale of T-bone steaks. It also joined other E.U. nations in outlawing the use of meat and bone meal in animal feed, long suspected as a possible cause of the malady. The European Union's food safety commissioner told French officials that those measures must be extended to exports of French-grown beef.
Beef sales in France have plunged 40% in recent weeks as consumer fears mount. at least two deaths have been confirmed in France from C-J-D, the human form of Mad Cow disease. To quiet fears, the French have begun a testing program expected to reach up to six million cattle by mid-2001.
Britain's beef industry has never fully recovered from its mad cow scare of the late 90s. C-J-D has killed an estimated 800 people there.
The ban on meat and bone meal in European animal feed sent soybean prices in Chicago to five-week highs late last week. Analysts say the fear over Mad Cow disease could mean increased exports of U.S. soy meal, a widely used animal feed supplement.
For its part, the French government is running full-page ads in newspapers insisting that French beef is safe to eat.
Ads also have become a prominent medium for American controversies. Smithfield Foods is using full-page ads in nine Midwest newspapers to criticize a rival bidder for I-B-P. And Archer Daniels Midland is using radio spots to warn farmers not to plant biotech corn that ADM can't sell overseas.