Journal of Consumer Policy

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 387–409 | Cite as

Consumer Response to Negative Media Information About Certified Organic Food Products

  • Christoph Emanuel Müller
  • Hansjörg Gaus
Original Paper


When fraudulent mislabelling of organic food products on the part of producers or label misapprehension on the part of consumers is revealed by mass media sources, this may have negative effects on consumers’ evaluations of and behaviour towards the purchase of certified organic food products. However, even if this poses a threat to the functioning of organic food labelling systems, there is a lack of empirical evidence. Therefore, drawing on behavioural models and literature on the impact of negative publicity on brand evaluations and consumer behaviour related to eco-labels, an experimental study was conducted in which members of the manipulation group watched a documentary containing exemplary information about fraud and misapprehension. The results show significant negative effects of the manipulation, both directly after exposure and 2 weeks later, on behavioural intentions, five attitudinal constructs, and trust in organic food labels. However, there were no significant effects on self-reported behaviour. Moreover, we found that the influence of the documentary on behavioural intentions was almost completely mediated by attitudes towards organic food products, whereas we did not find any significant mediator effects on self-reported behaviour.


Consumer response Negative media information Organic food Eco-labels Randomized controlled trial 



The authors wish to thank two anonymous reviewers and the editor John Thøgersen for their valuable feedback and helpful comments.

Author Note

Christoph Emanuel Mueller is a senior researcher in the Department of Sociology at Saarland University, Germany. His research focuses on the evaluation of interventions in the area of environmental sociology as well as on the development and transfer of methods for causal impact evaluation. [Email:]

Hansjörg Gaus is a senior researcher in the Department of Sociology at Saarland University and a visiting lecturer in consumer behaviour at Chemnitz University of Technology, Germany. His research interests include interventions to foster environment-friendly consumption, values research, and experiential consumption. [Email:]


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology, Center for Evaluation (CEval)Saarland UniversitySaarbrückenGermany

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