Research paper| Volume 24, ISSUE 2, P107-112, May 2019

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Escherichia coli on the internet: The power of YouTube to educate and influence consumer behavior regarding pathogenic bacteria

Published:February 06, 2019DOI:


      • Videos uploaded by consumers represent more than half of the most popular videos in the sample.
      • Professional/government derived videos accounted for fewer views.
      • These videos vary in terms of content.



      Proper education about food safety and hand hygiene helps to reduce the risk of exposure to Escherichia coli associated disease. The purpose of this study was to describe the 100 most widely viewed YouTube videos on the subject of E. coli to determine what consumers are viewing related to the hazards of, and reducing risk of exposure to, bacteria such as E. coli.


      The search term was conducted using the keywords “E. coli.” The 100 videos with the top view counts were included in this study. The sampling frame for this study included only videos that were in English. The source of the upload of each video was determined to be one of the following: (1) consumer, (2) professional (MD, RN)/government, (3) any news (television-based, internet-based, or print/radio). Content categories were created using a fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


      Videos uploaded by a news source tended to have been uploaded more recently (2015–2018) compared to other sources (p < 0.001). Videos uploaded by consumers or news sources tended to have more views than professional/government-uploaded videos (p = 0.044). Videos uploaded by news sources were more likely to mention a specific outbreak (p < 0.001), statistics (p = 0.004), and transmission via raw meat (p = 0.036), feces (p = 0.006), vegetables or produce (p = 0.006), and processing techniques (p = 0.005).


      YouTube videos on the topic were widely divergent, and varied in content, emphasizing different aspects of concern over hazards associated with E. coli. Consumer sources, rather than experts, were the most common source of upload of the most highly viewed videos. Government agencies, which collect and analyze public health data, do not appear to use YouTube effectively to disseminate information. This underscores the need for media to work with government agencies to provide accurate, timely information to the public.


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