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Abstract

The Federal Government began allowing food manufacturers to irradiate raw meat and meat products to control pathogenic microorganisms in February 2000. Consumer acceptance of irradiated foods could affect public health because many foodborne illnesses occur when consumers handle or eat meat or poultry contaminated by microbial pathogens. However, food manufacturers have been slow to adopt irradiation, partly because of the perception that relatively few consumers are willing to buy irradiated foods. A recent survey by the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) confirmed this perception: only half of the adult residents of the FoodNet sites were willing to buy irradiated ground beef or chicken, and only a fourth were willing to pay a premium for these products, which cost more to produce than comparable nonirradiated products. These findings suggest that the impact of food irradiation on public health will be limited unless consumer preferences change, perhaps in response to educational messages about the safety and benefits of food irradiation.

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