Countering negative, misinformation campaigns with repetitive messages focusing on the positive is one way to improve consumers' willingness to buy irradiated foods which benefit their health and safety, according to a series of studies described in this month's issue of Food Technology magazine, the Institute of Food Technologists publication.
The November article, "Influences on Purchase of Irradiated Foods," reveals that equal amounts of promotion and criticism of the irradiation of food result in unequal buying decisions by consumers.
It states: "When [consumers were] provided with both sets of information, the effect of negative information dominated that of the positive." It was found that irradiation opponents' unsubstantiated claim of a link between irradiated food and increased cancer risk is the most damaging factor.
When consumers are presented with an equal set of favourable and unfavourable messages, followed by truthful statements about irradiated foods, the article reveals more than 80 per cent of consumers said they would purchase an irradiated food.
The truthful statements included: irradiated food could never become radioactive; no study has shown a connection between irradiated food and cancer or birth defects; radiolytic properties similar to those produced by irradiation are also produced when food is grilled or fried; vitamin losses are insignificant and lower than in other food processing procedures; and others.
"Pasteurisation of milk and seat belts for automobiles were controversial for a time, but we know conclusively they both save lives," said IFT irradiation expert Christine Bruhn, whose studies are among the article's references. "The same will be true for irradiation.
"Those of us familiar with irradiation have an obligation to share the safety benefits of irradiated foods with the public," she added.
Food Technology is published monthly by IFT. Issues are accessible Online.