Analyzing consumers' reactions to news coverage of the 2011 Escherichia coli O104:H4 outbreak, using the extended parallel processing model

Year of publication: 2013
Author(s): De Vocht, M.; Cauberghe, V.; Sas, B. & Uyttendaele, M.
Appeared in: Journal of Food Protection, vol.: 76, issue: 3, 473-481


This paper describes and analyzes Flemish consumers’ real-life reactions after reading online newspaper articles related to the enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) O104:H4 outbreak associated with fresh produce in May and June 2011 in Germany. Using the Extended Parallel Processing Model (EPPM) as the theoretical framework, the present study explored the impact of Flemish (Belgian) online news coverage on consumers’ perception of the risk induced by the EHEC outbreak and their behavioral intentions as consumers of fresh produce. After the consumers read a newspaper article related to the outbreak, EPPM concepts were measured, namely, perceived severity, susceptibility, self-efficacy, and affective response, combined with behavioral intentions to eat less fresh produce, to rinse fresh produce better, and to alert loved ones concerning the risk. The consumers’ reactions were measured by inserting a link to an online survey below every online newspaper article on the EHEC outbreak that appeared in two substantial Flemish newspapers. The reactions of 6,312 respondents were collected within 9 days 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 were, as expected, high. However, the consumers thought they could prevent the risk from happening, which stresses the importance of increasing consumers’ knowledge of emerging food safety risks. Furthermore, analyses showed the moderating role of government trust and its influence on the way consumers perceived the risk, how worried they were, and their behavioral intentions.

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