Analyzing consumers' reactions on the news coverage of the E. coli 0104:H4 outbreak in 2011, using the Extended Parallel Processing Model

Year of publication: 2012
Author(s): De Vocht M.; Cauberghe V.; Sas B. & Uyttendaele M.
Appeared in: Society for Risk Analysis Europe, 21st Annual meeting, Abstracts


This research describes and analyses the Flemish consumers’ real-life reactions upon reading online newspaper articles related to the enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) O104:H4 outbreak in May/June 2011 in Germany associated with fresh produce. Using the Extended Parallel Processing Model (EPPM) of Witte (1992) as theoretical framework, the present study explores the impact of Flemish (Belgian) online news coverage on the readers’ perceptions of the risk induced by the EHEC-outbreak and their behavioral intentions as a consumer of fresh produce. After reading a newspaper article related to the outbreak, the concepts of the EPPM were measured, namely perceived severity, susceptibility, self-efficacy, and affective response in combination with behavioral intentions to eat less fresh produce, to rinse fresh produce better and to alert beloved ones concerning the risk. The reader’s reactions were measured by inserting a link to an online survey below every online newspaper article on the EHEC-outbreak that appeared in 2 substantial Flemish newspapers. Reactions of 6312 respondents were gathered within 9 days, and this for 17 different online newspaper articles. Looking at the perceived values of the EPPM concepts, the perceived severity and the perceived susceptibility of the risk are, as expected, high. However, consumers do think they can circumvent the risk from happening, which stresses the importance of increasing knowledge on the emerging food safety risks. Furthermore, analyses show the moderating role of governmental trust and its influence on the way consumers perceive the risk, how worried they are and their behavioral intentions.

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