Consumers on AI alert

by Erica Shaffer
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CHICAGO – With every announcement of a confirmed case of avian influenza comes a statement intended to reassure consumers that the risk to people from highly pathogenic H5 infections is low and birds from affected flocks won't enter the food chain.

But for some reason, the message isn't getting through to consumers, according to new research from The NPD Group, a leading global information company. More than 50 percent of US consumers say they have some level of concern about avian flu, according to NPD’s Food Safety Monitor.

NPD also found that 17 percent of consumers expressing some level of concern say they are “extremely” or “very concerned”, and the remaining consumers are “somewhat” or “slightly” concerned.

“When there were outbreaks in the past, we have seen concerns rise among consumers coinciding with the increased coverage,” Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst, said in a statement. “Food manufacturers and retailers can help allay unfounded fears about the outbreak by keeping consumers well-informed either specific to your products or overall.”

Nearly 37 million birds have been affected by H5N2 since the virus was first reported in December 2014. Hardest hit by the virus are Iowa, the leading egg-producing state and Minnesota, a leading turkey producer.
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