Food Engineering

Attitudes about irradiation are changing

January 1, 2002
American consumers may be warming up to the idea of irradiation as a result of the technology's ability to eradicate anthrax spores in contaminated U.S. mail, according to a survey by Porter Novelli.

Survey results showed that more and more consumers are making the connection between irradiation's ability to eliminate anthrax and protect the food supply, and view it as an acceptable precautionary measure.

Conducted among 1,008 U.S. adults in November, the survey found that consumers are moving from trepidation to a strong level of support for the technology, with more than half of respondents (52 percent) indicating that the government should require irradiation to help ensure a safe food supply. "Consumers are beginning to understand that that irradiation is similar to pasteurization...that it is the next generation in technology...that could protect the food supply now," observed Bill Layden, senior vice president of Porter Novelli Washington's Food Beverage and Nutrition Practice. A Porter Novelli survey conducted last year found that only 11 percent of consumers would buy irradiated food if it were available.

About two-thirds (64 percent) of respondents said they were concerned about contamination of the U.S. food supply with anthrax or other biological agents, while 51 percent agreed that irradiation could be used to kill anthrax or other biological agents.