Food Protection Trends - July/August 2017 - 248

stock price drop whenever an E. coli outbreak occurs (51).
Often, a company never fully recovers from a major food
safety event (51).
When considering communication efforts, it is important
to evaluate separately the effects of information, source,
and media, because evaluation and usage of information
are impacted discretely by information quality, source
characteristics, and media properties (22, 52, 53, 64).
The distinction between the source (from whom) and the
medium (how) is especially important, because source
and medium can have different impacts on communication
outcomes. More specifically, when one source uses multiple
media to communicate the same information, users may
trust and thus use the information communicated over one
medium more than that communicated over another. For
example, users might trust a health professional more when
he or she appears on television than when he or she uses a
personal blog. Alternatively, people may view information
differently if it is obtained from the same medium but
from different sources. For instance, people may view
news on the Internet from Fox News and from CNN
differently. Similarly, medium effect and information effect
should be considered discretely because of the distinctive
influences these two communication elements have on
communication outcomes. One possibility is that users
may perceive outbreak information collected from different
media to be of different quality. For example, users may
perceive information collected online to be more timely
than information obtained on TV.
Generally speaking, there are two forms of communication: push and pull. Communication is considered "pull"
if users request and retrieve the information and is considered "push" if the information is sent in anticipation of
users' needs, that is, the information is not directly solicited
(15). Traditionally, food safety information, along with
other health-related information, has been communicated
through push media such as TV and newspapers. The major
drawback of push communication is that users have few
choices about what information they receive and when. This
has limited the reach and relevance of food safety communication and thus its impact (10, 18). Consumers have
indicated that they would be more likely to use food safety
information if it were more accessible (66). In this regard,
the Internet, especially emerging platforms such as social
media sites, presents great possibilities for communicating
food safety information to the public.
Internet-based platforms, particularly social media
sites, have the potential to be effective for food safety
communication (9). Social media on Web 2.0 is an
important innovation that supports fast and interactive
communications with user-generated content (41).
Examples of social media include Facebook, YouTube,
wiki, twitter, and blogs (19). Social media platforms offer
timeliness (56), high accessibility (17), improved media

248

Food Protection Trends July/August

integration (20), cost effectiveness (55, 57), high scalability
(25), and high message fidelity (54). Social media have
been widely adopted and have very high user engagement,
especially among younger groups but also increasingly
among older consumers (44, 45). Thus, social media may
help food safety communication reach a broader audience,
including previously hard-to-reach populations (6, 13,
24, 40, 48). Social media are widely used in health and
risk communication (7, 43) and have proven to be useful
(56) in prompting changes in health behaviors (39, 62,
63). Also, they have been shown to improve transparency,
engagement, and relationships because of their interactive
nature (5, 14, 59, 60, 61).
Although use of social media in communicating health
information has been increasing (28, 55), it has not
always been effective because consumer preferences and
expectations, especially regarding media, are not clearly
understood (36). Research on food safety communication
in the past has focused on the benefits of new media (50),
the effects of communication and intervention (37, 38,
47), user typology (35), and message formation (26).
Without a clear understanding of users' media preferences,
efforts to improve food safety communication are likely to
have little success.
To understand consumer media preferences, it is necessary to explore the underlying reasons. For example,
characteristics of communication components such as
information (e.g., timeliness) and source (e.g., trustworthiness) can play important roles in consumer evaluation and
later selection of a medium (1, 2, 4, 16, 23, 27, 29, 33, 34,
42, 58, 65, 67). This study adapted the most commonly cited media, information, and source characteristics (2, 4, 23,
33, 34, 42, 58, 65, 67) to the context of foodborne illness
outbreak communication to frame consumers' priorities
in media preference and selection. These characteristics
include accuracy, timeliness, trustworthiness, applicability/
saliency, interactivity, searchability, usability, linkability,
familiarity, and security. The following research questions
were examined.
1. Which media do consumers prefer to use to obtain
information about a foodborne illness outbreak?
2. What priorities do consumers have in their media
selection?
MATERIALS AND METHODS
An online questionnaire was used to capture consumers'
responses in five areas related to obtaining foodborne illness
outbreak information: (1) current usage, (2) preferred
media type, (3) preferred Internet platform, (4) priorities
in media selection, and (5) demographic information.
A foodborne illness outbreak scenario was used to frame
the questions. The participants were given a scenario in
which foodborne illness outbreak occurred in their area,
a number of people became sick and many of those were



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Food Protection Trends - July/August 2017

Contents
Food Protection Trends - July/August 2017 - Cover1
Food Protection Trends - July/August 2017 - Cover2
Food Protection Trends - July/August 2017 - Contents
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Food Protection Trends - July/August 2017 - Cover3
Food Protection Trends - July/August 2017 - Cover4
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