Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Food Irradiation Messages
Food irradiation is a promising food safety technology that can significantly reduce diseasecausing organisms in foods. Research has found that insufficient information about the risks, benefits, and safety were major factors driving consumers’ reluctance to buy. This study examines the impact of information about food irradiation on consumers' willingness to purchase irradiated ground beef and poultry. Three information statements about food irradiation were developed, based on FDA and USDA Web sites. The topics were “benefits of food irradiation,” “consumers’ most frequent questions” and “authorities approving food irradiation.” The effect of the messages, individually and in combination, were evaluated through an on-line web survey. Information related to “benefits of food irradiation,” including reducing harmful bacteria, was the most effective in changing consumers’ perception of irradiated food. The information addressed in “consumers’ most frequent questions,” including not inducing radioactivity and no significant nutrition loss, was less powerful in changing perceptions, but better than information on “authorities approving food irradiation.” The combination of all three messages generated the largest increase in the number interested in selecting irradiated food. These findings can be used as a guide by policy makers, educators, and marketers to accurately describe irradiated food products and increase utilization of this safety enhancing technology.
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