Food Safety Information on the Internet: Consumer Media Preferences

Jing Ma, Barbara Almanza, Richard Ghiselli, Mihaela Vorvoreanu, Sandra Sydnor

Biblographic citation: Food Protection Trends, vol. 37, no. 4, pp. 247-255, Jul 2017

Volume 37, Issue 4: Pages 247–255

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Broader food safety communication may help engage consumers and contribute to an overall improvement in food safety. Results of an online questionnaire demonstrate the importance of the Internet in food safety communications about foodborne illness outbreaks. Despite the great potential of social media, websites are currently the preferred platform for communication about foodborne illness outbreaks. Media properties such as searchability and interactivity, together with information quality (e.g., accuracy and timeliness) and source characteristics (e.g., trustworthiness), influence consumers’ evaluation of and preference for media type. Information quality carried the most weight when users evaluated an Internet-based platform, and searchability was the most valued media functionality. The results of this study have important implications for resource allocation. Agencies interested in communicating foodborne illness outbreak information may want to focus their efforts on users’ website experiences. Improvements in search abilities are needed, although provision of high-quality information should still take priority. When information quality is maintained, utilizing Internet-based platforms can help reduce costs and save resources. The fact that a small percentage of consumers do not want to use the Internet to find foodborne illness outbreak information indicates the need to employ a communication strategy that incorporates multiple media.

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