Swiss consumers are giving beef the cold shoulder in the wake of revelations of an expanding beef crisis in Europe. Fears of Mad Cow disease have resulted in a marked drop in beef sales.
Figures show that French-speaking Switzerland has reacted more strongly than German-speaking Swiss to fresh discoveries of cattle infected with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy or BSE.
The two largest Swiss supermarket chains, Migros and Coop, reported that sales of beef and meat products had dropped by around 20 per cent over the past three to four weeks.
Butchers in the region also experienced diminished sales of around 25 per cent, according to the Swiss Union of Butchers.
The head of the organisation, Balz Horber, said the panic brought on by events in France had clearly influenced the French-speaking Swiss reaction to the expanding beef crisis.
Last week, the French president, Jacques Chirac, met relatives of the victims of the human form of BSE, the new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease or CJD. The outrage caused by the CJD deaths was compounded by at least six fresh discoveries of BSE-infected cows in France.
More than 80 people in Britain have died as a result of CJD.
Last week, Spain and Germany reported their first case of mad cow disease. The European Commission this week proposed a complete ban on meat and bone meal which has been linked to BSE.
The interior minister, Ruth Dreifuss, also called for a partial ban on using the meat-based meal as animal feed.
In German-speaking parts of Switzerland, the decline in beef sales was less marked. Migros reported a drop in sales of five to 10 per cent, while butcheries in central and eastern Switzerland said that sales had been affected by as much as 20 per cent.
Coop spokesman, Karl Weisskopf, said their customers were increasingly turning to their organic line of products, Natura Beef.
Another result of the BSE scare, is that supermarkets and butcheries alike reported an increase in demand for other meats like pork, lamb, veal, and poultry.
swissinfo with agencies