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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Food Safety Gone Mad (Cow)

The data associated with this publication are within the manuscript.

We study the correlation of online Google search for mad cow disease in the UK and reported food safety procedures following recommended practice outlined by the FSA, two decades after the mad cow disease crisis in the UK in 1993. Using four waves of food safety survey data between 2010 and 2016 and Google Trends web and news search data over the corresponding time period we find that an increase in the average news search before and during a survey is correlated with a statistically significant decrease in safe food practices, as measured by the index of recommended practice (IRP), albeit the effect is small. This may be evidence of a moral hazard problem: news search for mad cow disease may reveal the efforts of agencies and producers to protect against foodborne illnesses, making individuals less accountable in their own actions to stay food safe.

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