Food irradiation is an emerging technology which offers many advantages such as reduction of microorganisms, extension of shelf-life of foods, reduction in the use of post-harvest chemicals, and destruction of insects and parasites. The commercial utilization of food irradiation, however, has been restricted because of the uncertainty of consumers' responses to it. Because success of food irradiation in the marketplace will depend upon their acceptability by consumers, this study focused on the consumers' perception and acceptance toward food irradiation in order to get basic data for commercial utilization of food irradiation and give information to consumers to help rational consumption behavior. The survey with 411 respondents living in Youngnam area was conducted during the spring of 1997 by the questionnaires. The results and implications from this study are as follows. First, consumers' knowledge about food irradiation is scanty. Two-thirds of respondents in the survey had not heard of irradiated foods and many people confused irradiation with radioactivity. In the willingness to accept food irradiation, one-third of respondents showed a wait-and-see attitude. This result indicated consumers had insufficient information about the irradiation process and nationwide education of food irradiation technology should be undertaken. Second, although the purchase and use of food are very important consumption behaviors, consumer education by mass communication has been rarely done. For the successful commercialization of food irradiation, the information provision by mass communication for the consumers should be made. Third, consumers generally worried about residual pesticide and intended to purchase irradiated foods if radioactivity was not retained in the foods. Therefore, food irradiation could be an alternative method to the use of pesticide Fourth, consumers pointed out that they wanted to extend shelf-life of milk and dairy foods, fish and seafood and to irradiate these foods. Therefore, research for the safety of irradiated foods should be continually conducted. finally, labeling for irradiated foods is needed to provide the information and to further increase public understanding. Especially, the labeling should show the definite reason why irradiation is being used. In conclusion, recently, under the circumstances that the commercial utilization of food irradiation and irradiation for the import and export products have been increased in many countries, many efforts are needed to improve the quality of irradiated foods, and prove the safety of them in Korea. In addition, consumer education for food irradiation should be given to help consumers to make decision for food purchase and use.
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