Food Fraud Project

Departments: Management

Project Director: Dr Mike Tse

The Horsemeat Scandal in 2013 revealed that food fraud issue in the supply network can trigger a knock-on effect in society and create enormous implications for consumer confidence, brand identity, and regulatory issues. It affected all three actors (i.e. consumers, retailers and regulators) in the food system, with particular critical emphasis on the UK supermarket.

In addition to more traditional communication channels, consumers were getting and sharing information about the scandal via social media. Not only were consumers sharing information, but were also recording what they thought and how they felt about the issues in real time in reaction to the latest piece of news.

In this project, we present a progressive tweet-mining framework that can serve as a tool for academia and practitioners in crisis management. The proposed framework indicates the significant importance of timely categorising the topics, identifying the sentiment of tweets and understanding the changes of consumer opinions over time in a crisis.

During the Horsemeat scandal, making jokes in social media was a main trend in the tweets. Consumer sentiments were overall negative and burgers were the most mentioned product in the week-long period after the story broke. The posting of tweets was correlated with the timing of news coverage, which indicates that the traditional media is still crucial to public opinion formation.

Funding: British Academy