Research released this week from consumer trends tracker NPD Group showed a gap between consumer attitudes and behavior, indicating that while consumers say they are concerned about mad cow disease, their buying behavior doesn’t show it.

The NPD survey showed 57 percent of respondents said they were concerned about mad cow disease before the U.S. case came to light, while 72 percent said they were concerned about the disease in the days after the news broke.

NPD’s sales assessment for the week ending Dec. 29, when the BSE case was revealed, showed fast-food intake exceeded that of the same period in 2002 by 5 percent.

“Americans eat out at fast-food restaurants more than at any other restaurant, so this is telling us that fast food is not seeing an impact from the latest news,” says NPD Group Vice President Harry Balzer.

“Americans’ concerns don’t necessarily translate into a change in behavior, but clearly it’s on our radar screen again and as long as the numbers of mad cow cases remain small, it will have a minimal impact on our eating habits,” Balzer says.