Food Fraud Project

During this project a tweet-mining framework was developed to provide a crisis management tool for academia and practitioners to better understand the changes in consumer opinions.


The Horsemeat Scandal in 2013 revealed that food fraud issues 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.

Findings and outcomes

This project presented a progressive tweet-mining framework that can serve as a tool for academia and practitioners in crisis management. The 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.

Project activities and publications

Tse, Y. K., Zhang, M., Doherty, B., Chappell, P., & Garnett, P., 2016. Insight from the horsemeat scandal: exploring the consumers’ opinion of tweets toward Tesco. Industrial Management & Data Systems, 116(6), 1178-1200.

Chappell, P. J., Tse, Y. K., Zhang, M., & Moore, S. R. (2017). Using GPS geo-tagged social media data and geodemographics to investigate social differences: A Twitter pilot study. Sociological Research Online, 22(3), 38-56- Was awarded the 2018 Sociological Research Online SAGE Prize for Innovation and/or Excellence.

Tse, Y. K., Loh, H., Ding, J., & Zhang, M. (2018). An investigation of social media data during a product recall scandal. Enterprise Information Systems (Accepted, Forthcoming 2018)

  • Dr Mike Tse (Principal Investigator)

Principal Investigator

  • Dr Mike Tse (School for Business and Society, University of York)


British Academy