Every meat safety or livestock disease scare prompts claims of consumers turning to vegetarianism in their thousands, followed by equally predictable market research data supposedly proving few of them stay loyal to the cause for long. But the FMD controversy is not quite conforming to the usual pattern. Several major wholesalers and importers have mentioned to The Grocer surprisingly negative sentiment among their retailer customers, reflecting suspicion consumers are more nervous than implied by the MLC's confident rebuttal of reports from the BBC and the Vegetarian Society (The Grocer, March 31, page 10). A hint of this concern could be detected in Scottish meat trade spokesman Alan Stevenson's statement citing research showing 95% of the population still eating red meat and sales higher than a year ago. Although Stevenson said "generally trade is holding up" despite problems for some caterers in rural areas, he added "the continual use of distressing and emotive pictures in the media is bound to have an impact on consumers". Stevenson was voicing an opinion widely held in the meat trade: consumers know FMD is not a threat to human health, but its effect on retail meat sales is reminiscent of the BSE crisis because pictures of rotting and burning carcases are more unpleasant than that famous TV image of the wobbling cow. {{M/E MEAT }}