Meat industry readies for foot-and-mouth outbreak

WASHINGTON: The US government and meat industry groups are working

to communicate the importance of crisis preparation should

foot-and-mouth disease hit the nation's livestock.

The last US case was in 1929, but the disease has reached crisis levels

in the UK. The meat industry also fears that media coverage may

exaggerate any potential problem.

The National Meat Association (NMA) has created a crisis management

guide with its PR firm, Edelman. NMA's newsletter also emphasizes the

importance of crisis drills, rather than just relying on a manual if the

worst happens.

The National Cattleman's Beef Association (NCBA) has put out a

newsletter with crisis advice, and includes a detailed overview of the

USDA plan on its Web site.

Articles in The New York Times and USA Today reported on a strategy

meeting held last week with 75 federal agencies, including the

Department of Agriculture, the CIA and the Coast Guard. The stories

suggest that containing the problem would require instant action, akin

to a disaster response.

The USA Today headline - 'Foot-and-mouth 'probable' in US' - has angered

some. 'I thought it was atrocious.' said Alisa Harrison, executive

director of PR at NCBA. 'The media just needs to chill out.'

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