Food manufacturers in the United States are currently allowed to irradiate raw meat and poultry to control microbial pathogens and began marketing irradiated beef products in mid-2000. Consumers can reduce their risk of foodborne illness by substituting irradiated meat and poultry for nonirradiated products, particularly if they are more susceptible to foodborne illness. The objective of this study was to identify the individual characteristics associated with willingness to buy irradiated meat and poultry, with a focus on five risk factors for foodborne illness: unsafe food handling and consumption behavior, young and old age, and compromised immune status. A logistic regression model of willingness to buy irradiated meat or poultry was estimated using data from the 1998-1999 FoodNet Population Survey, a single-stage random-digit dialing telephone survey conducted in seven sites covering 11% of the U.S. population. Nearly one-half (49.8%) of the 10,780 adult respondents were willing to buy irradiated meat or poultry. After adjusting for other factors, consumer acceptance of these products was associated with male gender, greater education, higher household income, food irradiation knowledge, household exposure to raw meat and poultry, consumption of animal flesh, and geographic location. However, there was no difference in consumer acceptance by any of the foodborne illness risk factors. It is unclear why persons at increased risk of foodborne illness were not more willing to buy irradiated products, which could reduce the hazards they faced from handling or undercooking raw meat or poultry contaminated by microbial pathogens.
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