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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 1103: XXIX International Horticultural Congress on Horticulture: Sustaining Lives, Livelihoods and Landscapes (IHC2014): XVII International Symposium on Horticultural Economics and Management and V International Symposium on Improving the Performance of Supply Chains in the Transitional Economies

Foodborne illness and media coverage: case study of the German E. coli outbreak in 2011

Authors:   V. Bitsch, N. Koković, M. Rombach
Keywords:   crisis management, enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC), fresh produce, knowledge deficit, media analysis, qualitative content analysis
DOI:   10.17660/ActaHortic.2015.1103.12
Abstract:
In the past two decades, E. coli strains have led to serious outbreaks related to fresh fruit and vegetables. This case study analyzes the 2011 E. coli outbreak in Germany, which was attributed to contaminated organic fenugreek sprouts which caused 53 fatalities. Horticulture producers in several European countries suffered economic losses amounting to over 800 million within the first two weeks of the outbreak. In the wake of the outbreak, the European Union allocated 227 million in compensation to producers in 22 member states. The focus of this study is on three factors shaping crisis management during a risk event: timely communication; acknowledgment of risk; and control of stigma. Outbreak-related media reports by a national newspaper and an industry-oriented on-line portal, as well as official advisory notices and press releases are compared using qualitative content analysis. When comparing information provided by government authorities and the media, the relationship is unclear. The analysis shows premature proclamations by the authorities, but German consumers continued to trust the government as they followed the recommendations provided.

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