Discovering the impact of the horse meat scandal using social media

August 8, 2014, Cardiff University
Discovering the impact of the horse meat scandal using social media

Cardiff University researchers will discover public perceptions of the recent horse meat scandal for the first time by analysing social media data.

The scandal last year revealed a major breakdown in the traceability of the chain and the adulteration of meat.

The extensive media coverage revealed not only widespread fraud but also the complexity of the UK meat supply chain and the extent of meat imports.

The project will investigate how the growing complexity of international food supply chains is giving rise to a new generation of risks and concerns.

The University's Collaborative Online Social Media Observatory (COSMOS) has been awarded an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) grant under their Global Food Security Programme; a joint initiative with the Food Standards Agency (FSA). The project is in collaboration with NatCen, the University of Warwick and the University of Westminster.

Dr Pete Burnap, Computer Scientist and expert in Risk in Distributed and Collaborative Online Networks, said: "COSMOS provides a unique opportunity to study the story arc of crises in unprecedented detail. We have collected data from public Twitter accounts since 2012 and our database of more than three billion tweets will allow us to trace the unfolding of the horse meat scandal; pinpointing moments of escalation, de-escalation and duration.

"We can also mine the data to discover variation in levels of public sentiment and tension around the topic, as well as identify demographic characteristics of those involved and the geographic spread of the scare. This study will enhance understanding of the potential of social media analysis to both access and how these evolve and to establish how analysis can be used in risk governance and engagement with the public about risks more generally" Dr Burnap added.

Dr Luke Sloan from the Cardiff School of Social Sciences, said: "We are delighted to be working on this trail-blazing project funded under the Understanding the Challenges of the UK Food System call. The research will generate new empirical findings on public perceptions of UK food supply chains, what people's concerns are, what influences these and how they may be best managed in the future."

Dr Matthew Williams, who was recently appointed to the ESRC's Social Media Experts working group to represent COSMOS, said: "We are honoured to be part of the Global Food Security Programme and look forward to deploying the COSMOS platform and lending our social science expertise in relation to big data to this innovative project."

The project team are Dr Luke Sloan, Dr Matthew Williams (COSMOS, Cardiff School of Social Sciences), Dr Pete Burnap (COSMOS, Cardiff School of Computer Science and Informatics), Caireen Roberts (NatCen), Professor Elizabeth Dowler (University of Warwick) and Dr Alizon Draper (University of Westminster).

Explore further: Researchers develop food safety social media guide

More information:

Related Stories

Researchers develop food safety social media guide

August 4, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—To help protect public health, researchers from North Carolina State University have developed guidelines on how to use social media to communicate effectively about food safety.

Dutch find horse in 690 tonnes of abattoir meat

January 29, 2014

The Dutch health watchdog said Wednesday it had halted distribution of 690 tonnes of meat from an abattoir after a probe found traces of horse in products marked as beef.

Chicken off McDonald's HK menu after food scandal

July 25, 2014

(AP)—McDonald's restaurants in Hong Kong have taken chicken nuggets and chicken filet burgers off the menu after a mainland Chinese supplier was accused of selling expired meat.

Good risk communication, safer food

February 11, 2014

Food scare make authorities uneasy. In previous cases, national food safety agencies have not always known how to react, making the public wary. For example, in 2011, the German health authorities incorrectly linked the ...

Reflections on chevaline

May 1, 2013

Horse meat as time-honored European cuisine, its detection when mixed into meatballs and other food and the angst over consumption of chevaline in the United States, is food for a thoughtful installment of the popular Newscripts ...

Recommended for you

A statistical look at the probability of future major wars

February 22, 2018

Aaron Clauset, an assistant professor and computer scientist at the University of Colorado, has taken a calculating look at the likelihood of a major war breaking out in the near future. In an article published on the open ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.