Mad cow panicSome television broadcasters are showing programs that make people worry about mad cow disease just as the resumption of beef imports from the United States nears.
It is understandable that they are concerned about the country and the health of the people, but generating groundless fears will only lead to negativity.
Some citizens are posting groundless claims on the Internet, such as “95 percent of Koreans are likely to get mad cow disease,” “You can get mad cow disease just by ingesting powdered seasoning for instant noodles,” or “If you eat beef from a diseased cow, you get holes in the brain.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three Americans have died so far from the human equivalent of mad cow disease. Two had traveled from Britain, where mad cow disease originated. If the worse-case scenario had happened, we should have seen countless cases of people die or fall ill from this disease.
A Korean TV program quoted Howard Lyman, an extreme environmentalist far from mainstream science, who said on the Oprah Winfrey show 12 years ago that mad cow disease would be a major catastrophe for humankind in the near future.
He was wrong.
We should take a rational approach to opening our beef market or the possibility of humans developing a form of mad cow disease. We shouldn’t respond simply on an emotional level.
Frankly speaking, one wonders why such provocative programs about mad cow disease are pouring out like this. After all, public broadcasters should deliver balanced reports and views based on scientific facts. Clearly, it would be irresponsible to ignore the possibility that people in Korea, or elsewhere, might develop a human form of mad cow disease. But generating excessive fear doesn’t help, either.
It’s important now to intensify the quarantine system for imported beef and to prepare follow-up measures, such as labeling the places of origin or setting up a system for tracking products.
We should also note that mad cow disease cannot be transferred to humans through the air or through touch. Mainstream experts in the science and medical fields believe there is only a very slim chance that the disease could ever develop on a scale similar to the spread of HIV/AIDS or the flu.
If broadcasters continue to air these fear-mongering programs, they will end up as objects of ridicule.