Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Hospitality and Tourism Management

First Advisor

Barbara A. Almanza

Second Advisor

Richard Ghiselli

Committee Chair

Barbara A. Almanza

Committee Co-Chair

Richard Ghiselli

Committee Member 1

Sandra Sydnor

Committee Member 2

Mihaela Vorvoreanu


Food safety is important as foodborne illness outbreaks cause great economic and societal losses. Efforts to protect public health and reduce foodborne illness outbreaks will not be fully effective unless the resulting information is communicated to consumers.

However, food safety communications have not been particularly satisfactory (Worsfold, 2006). If food safety information were more accessible, consumers would be more likely to use it (Worsfold, 2006). In this regard, the Internet presents great possibilities for communicating food safety information to the public. But media’s role has been largely overlooked in existing literature. When the lack of research is combined with consumers’ increasing interest in food safety (Food Safety News, 2016), the need to understand media’s effect is pressing.

To further the understanding of media’s role in influencing food safety communication outcome, three progressive studies were conducted. The first study explored consumers’ preferences, motivations, information needs, and information usage. The second study examined consumers’ experience interacting with websites used for food safety communication and mapped website characteristics to users’ perceptions. The third study investigated the relationships among website characteristics, perceptions, efficacies, and behavioral intention, and tested the impact of media on communication outcomes.

Results of Study 1 revealed that the Internet was consumers’ preferred media choice for food safety communication. Among Internet-based platforms, websites were most preferred. Media, information, and source characteristics interact in influencing consumers’ experience with the websites and later communication outcome. Thus, it is important to maintain or improve information quality while offering media functionalities that reduces users’ efforts in information seeking.

Study 2 showed that consumers go through a two-stage process in food safety communication. First, consumers are informed (usually passively) about an outbreak. Then, after the risks and threat are evaluated, consumers become motivated and actively seek out additional information to make decisions and protect themselves. Additionally, in Study 2, the link between website characteristics and consumers’ efficacy perceptions was established. It was also discovered that the relationships among efficacy components were complex and probably nonlinear.

In Study 3, relationships among website characteristics, perceptions towards such characteristics, efficacy perceptions, and behavioral intention were evaluated and tested statistically. It was discovered that website characteristics, through efficacy perceptions, influence consumers’ intention to use the communicated information. The results offered support that media is indeed important and influential and that it works together with information quality to shape consumers’ behavioral intention. More specifically, features on websites that directly related to searchability (e.g. search box and site map) and saliency (specific information about foods and locations involved) were perceived to be most influential and should be specially considered in website design and maintenance.