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Canadians warming up to food irradiation

A Consumers’ Association of Canada survey has found that more than half of Canadians would welcome the choice of irradiated foods in their grocery store


Toronto – A survey has found that just over half of Canadians would likely consider consuming irradiated food products.

The Consumers’ Association of Canada commissioned the Food Irradiation Survey earlier this year. Angus Reid carried out the online poll, which included more than a 1,000 Canadians age 18 years and older.

The survey found that 57 per cent of the respondents had never heard of irradiation, which is the process of exposing food to a controlled amount of energy called ionizing radiation. There are three different types of radiation allowed: Gamma rays, X-rays and electron beam radiation.

Yet, once those respondents had irradiation explained to them, most said they would accept having irradiated foods to choose from in their local grocery stores.

More survey results

The survey also found that:

• Men and those over the age of 55 years are the most likely to report having heard of the process of food irradiation (48%). Three-in-five (57%) Canadians have not heard of the process of irradiation.

• One-in-three (34%) Canadians oppose having irradiated food at the grocery store as a choice. Those over the age of 55 years of age are the most supportive, with three-in-four (74%) strongly or moderately supporting having the option.

• Men and older Canadians are the most likely to report that they would consider irradiated food products as a choice for their household.

Bacteria awareness

The survey found that only one-in-10 Canadians – 12 per cent – report that they are not aware of harmful bacteria, such as Listeria and E.coli, being found in salad greens, chicken, hamburger and deli meats sold in Canadian grocery stores.

Also, Canadian consumers are more concerned about bacteria in their meat products than they are about bacteria in their salad greens.

Radura, the international symbol for irradiated food

While two-in-five Canadians are very concerned with chicken meat (45 per cent), hamburger

meat (44 per cent) and deli meat (42 per cent), only one-in-three are very concerned with the presence of bacteria in salad greens (33 per cent).

Irradiation in Canada

Currently, onions, potatoes, wheat, flour, whole-wheat flour, and whole or ground spices and dehydrated seasonings are approved for irradiation and sale in Canada.

Health Canada says it has also completed the scientific review of four proposed new uses of food irradiation, including mangoes, poultry, shrimp and prawns, and ground beef.

Pre-packaged foods that have been wholly irradiated must display the international radiation symbol, called the Radura, on the package.