Evaluating Misinformation on YouTube about Washing Produce Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Geena Verma, Ian Young, Fatih Sekercioglu Biblographic citation: Food Protection Trends, vol. 43, no. 2, pp. 161-166, Mar 2023 Volume 43, Issue 2: Pages 161–166 DOI: 10.4315/FPT-22-016

YouTube videos have been a significant source of public health and food safety misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the washing of produce with soap and other substances was promoted in the early stages of the pandemic through YouTube videos. Therefore, we conducted a study to analyze produce washing messaging in YouTube videos posted during, compared to prior to, the COVID-19 pandemic. Videos were identified via targeted keyword searches. Produce washing meth-ods were coded and classified according to government recommendations. A total of 100 YouTube videos were identified and analyzed; 66 videos were posted during the pandemic and 34 before the pandemic. Of the 100 videos, 70 contained nonfactual information about produce washing. Videos posted by bloggers were more likely to contain nonfactual information compared to videos posted by the government and organizations (78 versus 29%). Videos posted during the pandemic were more likely to have nonfactual information than those posted before the pandemic (56 versus 17%). This study found that individual bloggers contributed to the spread of misinformation about produce washing in YouTube videos, resulting in potentially harmful behavior changes among consumers. Efforts are needed from food safety educators and public health officials to improve the accuracy of food safety information disseminated on YouTube.

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