Most Canadians have not heard of food irradiation but after being provided with a definition, two-thirds say they would support its use, according to an opinion poll conducted for the Consumers’ Association of Canada.
The survey asked 1006 randomly selected Canadian adults about their awareness of foodborne pathogens and food irradiation, and whether they would buy foods that have been treated with irradiation to eliminate pathogens. The poll was conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion on February 7 and February 8 this year.
The survey found that 57% of those surveyed had not previously heard of food irradiation, although awareness was greater in men and those aged over 55 (48%).
Respondents were told that irradiation is defined as “a method of preserving food by using a type of radiation energy. It is one of several techniques that can be used by food producers to protect the quality of food before it reaches the grocery store.”
Those aged over 55 were also more likely to support its use, with nearly three-quarters (74%) of this group strongly or moderately supporting having the option of buying irradiated foods. Overall, 66% of those polled supported having food irradiation as a choice for consumers when purchasing foods, while 34% opposed the option.
Researchers have suggested that education and improved communication about the benefits and safety of technologies such as irradiation could improve consumer acceptance. The USDA has also pointed out that most consumers learn about irradiation and biotechnology through researching organic production methods, and many organic consumer groups portray these technologies in a negative light.
Currently, Health Canada does not approve irradiation in ground beef, chicken or salad greens, but as far back as 2002 it published draft regulations and held consultations on its potential use.
Use of food irradiation is approved for dried herbs, spices, wheat flour, potatoes and onions in Canada. In the United States, irradiation has also been used with other fruits and vegetables, as well as some meats and poultry.