Short-Term Panic Over European Horse Meat Scandal Will Stay Short-Term

LOS ANGELES , February 20, 2013 () – I’m based in Los Angeles, so I admittedly am not directly surrounded by the recent horse meat scandal that has spread across Europe. But as someone who has seen his fair share of food scandals in the U.S., believe me when I tell you that this short-term panic over horse meat will stay just that: short term.

At first glance, statistics may state otherwise. According to a recent survey, 63% of consumers in Britain say they believe it’s possible that they have eaten horse meat recently due to the scandal, and as a result, 35% say they will eat less burgers.

Now I’m not saying these consumers are lying, but consider this: The survey is highlighting an immediate reaction to a potential food-safety issue that has been constantly in the news all over Europe. It’s surveying consumers when their fears are at their highest. So naturally, the numbers are going to be skewed.

It reminds me of the “pink slime” scandal that hit the U.S. last year. The two incidents are very similar. Both dealt with huge media hype. Both led to consumers freaking out about what they were eating. And both didn’t actually have a single illness or death linked to it.

And they’ll both have one more similarity:

Just like pink slime, the horse meat scandal will soon fade away and be forgotten.

Unless someone actually dies from it.

Then all bets are off.

Nevin Barich is the Food & Beverage Analyst for Industry Intelligence Inc. In his experience, food-safety scares and scandals always go away quickly…assuming no one dies. He can be reached at

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