Research – Text Mining Approaches for Postmarket Food Safety Surveillance Using Online Media

Wiley Online

Food contamination and food poisoning pose enormous risks to consumers across the world. As discussions of consumer experiences have spread through online media, we propose the use of text mining to rapidly screen online media for mentions of food safety hazards. We compile a large data set of labeled consumer posts spanning two major websites. Utilizing text mining and supervised machine learning, we identify unique words and phrases in online posts that identify consumers’ interactions with hazardous food products. We compare our methods to traditional sentiment‐based text mining. We assess performance in a high‐volume setting, utilizing a data set of over 4 million online reviews. Our methods were 77–90% accurate in top‐ranking reviews, while sentiment analysis was just 11–26% accurate. Moreover, we aggregate review‐level results to make product‐level risk assessments. A panel of 21 food safety experts assessed our model’s hazard‐flagged products to exhibit substantially higher risk than baseline products. We suggest the use of these tools to profile food items and assess risk, building a postmarket decision support system to identify hazardous food products. Our research contributes to the literature and practice by providing practical and inexpensive means for rapidly monitoring food safety in real time.

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