Chinese Consumers' Concerns About Food Safety

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [University of Cambridge]On: 13 October 2014, At: 07:04Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>Journal of International Food &amp; Agribusiness MarketingPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:</p><p>Chinese Consumers' Concerns About Food SafetyXiaoyong Zhang aa Agricultural Economics Research Institute (LEI), Wageningen University and ResearchCenter (WUR) , P.O. Box 29703, 2502 LS, The Hague, The NetherlandsPublished online: 08 Sep 2008.</p><p>To cite this article: Xiaoyong Zhang (2005) Chinese Consumers' Concerns About Food Safety, Journal of International Food &amp;Agribusiness Marketing, 17:1, 57-69, DOI: 10.1300/J047v17n01_04</p><p>To link to this article:</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the Content) containedin the publications on our platform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis, our agents, and our licensors make norepresentations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of theContent. Any opinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, andare not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon andshould be independently verified with primary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable forany losses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoeveror howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arising out of the use ofthe Content.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematicreproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in anyform to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &amp; Conditions of access and use can be found at</p><p></p></li><li><p>Chinese Consumers ConcernsAbout Food Safety:</p><p>Case of TianjinXiaoyong Zhang</p><p>ABSTRACT. The objective of this study is to gain an insight to Chineseconsumers knowledge and concerns over food safety from a case study inTianjin city. The results indicate that Chinese consumers are very muchconcerned about food safety, particularly with regard to vegetables anddairy products. Chinese consumers know little about genetically modified(GM) and organic foods. Empirical results show that young and highly ed-ucated men are the main consumers of the so called pollution-free food,promoted by the Chinese government, and highly educated and vari-ety-seeking consumers are most likely to buy GM food products in the fu-ture. [Article copies available for a fee from The Haworth Document DeliveryService: 1-800-HAWORTH. E-mail address: Website: 2005 by The Haworth Press, Inc. Allrights reserved.]</p><p>KEYWORDS. Chinese consumers, food safety, Tianjin, geneticallymodified and organic food, pollution-free food</p><p>Dr. Xiaoyong Zhang is affiliated with the Agricultural Economics Research Insti-tute (LEI), Wageningen University and Research Center (WUR), P.O. Box 29703,2502 LS The Hague, The Netherlands (E-mail:</p><p>The author is grateful for the comments of Jikun Huang, Frank van Tongeren, ThomAchterbosch and Ben Kamphuis. The comments and suggestions from two anonymousreferees are much appreciated.</p><p>This research was carried out under the framework of a research project titled Sus-tainable Vegetable Production and Marketing in Tianjin China, financed by the Dutchagency Senter.</p><p>Journal of International Food &amp; Agribusiness Marketing, Vol. 17(1) 2005Available online at</p><p> 2005 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.Digital Object Identifier: 10.1300/J047v17n01_04 57</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f C</p><p>ambr</p><p>idge</p><p>] at</p><p> 07:</p><p>04 1</p><p>3 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>FOOD SAFETY:AN EMERGING CONTEMPORARY ISSUE</p><p>Food safety, together with globalisation and technological revolution, isone of the key emerging issues in food policy research (Pinstrup-Andersen,1999). After the outbreak of a series of food-borne pathogens, such as E. coli,BSE, and Salmonella in the 1980s, consumers confidence in food safety fellto an all-time low. As a result, a pool of research has been focusing on consum-ers perception of food safety and willingness to pay for safe foods (Hensonand North 2000; 1998; Nayga, 1996; Wessells and Anderson, 1995, etc.). Shinet al. (1992) developed an experimental method to measure consumers will-ingness to pay (WTP). The results indicate that for each meal that may be con-taminated with Salmonella, Iowa State University students would pay anadditional 55 cents to upgrade to a safer product. In a pesticide-residue risk re-duction study, Buzby et al. (1995) have found that consumers WTP for safergrapefruit was significantly related to consumers age, income and attitude.By using contingent valuation method, Fu et al. (1999) found that consumerswho are particularly concerned about health risks, such as those who purchasehydroponic vegetables, have greater WTP for reducing the chance of cancerassociated with pesticide residues. Furthermore, the results show that the mostsignificant factors that determine the WTP for risk reduction are the respon-dents health condition and concerns about the cost and quality of vegetables.</p><p>CHINESE FOOD QUALITY AND SAFETY</p><p>Until some years ago, the Chinese government had not put food safety onits agenda. The priority had been to produce enough food for the whole nationand to maintain a high level of grain self-sufficiency. The issue of Chinesefood security has been widely studied by a group of scholars (for an overview,consult Huang et al., 1999). Food quality and safety have only recently be-come a hot issue in China. Two factors account for this new challenge. First,with the rising level of living standards, Chinese consumers are no longer sat-isfied with quantity alone: they are demanding better quality assurance. How-ever, a series of food scandals in recent years have shocked consumers andhave reduced consumers confidence.</p><p>Second, the rapid development of international trade in China should betaken into account. As China is now a WTO member, disputes over tariff tradebarriers are gradually diminishing. Technical trade barriers, such as foodsafety issues, will prevail. Export products which do not comply with the stan-dards of importing countries have been rejected or dumped in ports and have</p><p>58 JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL FOOD &amp; AGRIBUSINESS MARKETING</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f C</p><p>ambr</p><p>idge</p><p>] at</p><p> 07:</p><p>04 1</p><p>3 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>caused tremendous losses for China. The Chinese government has becomeaware of the new challenge and has taken action. The government has listedfood safety as one of its top programmes in the 10th Five-Year National Plan(2001-2005).</p><p>In 2001, the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) announced the Pollution-FreeFood (PFF) Action Plan. The main objective of this plan is to establish,within ten years, a sound food quality and safety standard system in China.Based on other international well-recognised food safety standards, China willadopt and enact its own standards whilst aiming at harmonising with the Co-dex Alimentarius. At every level, the government strongly supports the settingup of advanced monitoring and testing laboratories. These authorized centresare responsible for the testing of pollution-free products. Apart from pollu-tion-free certification, enterprises are encouraged to comply with internation-ally recommended quality assurance schemes such as GMP, HACCP, ISO9000, ISO 1400, etc. Furthermore, the Chinese government is in the process ofenacting the Agrifood Quality and Safety Law. Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin,and Shenzhen were chosen as pilot cities for the implementation of the Pollu-tion-Free Food Action Plan in 2001. The emphasis of the first phase(2001-2005) will be on agro-chemicals and residues of vegetables, fruits andteas. By 2005, the product category will be expanded to include grain, meats,eggs, milk and fish. The main reason for the Chinese government to start itsprogramme with chemical residue on horticultural products is the increasingtrade dispute with Japan. During the past years, Japanese markets have put tre-mendous pressure on China in reducing the agro-chemical residue level in itsvegetables. Certainly, the Chinese government should also acknowledge thedamage caused by hazards other than chemical residues, such as plantdiseases.</p><p>Before the introduction of PFF in China, there were two other certificationschemes involving green foods and organic foods. If the Pollution-Free FoodProgramme is to ensure safe, basic food for the people of China, the target forgreen food and organic food must be a higher quality. Green food is instigatedby the MoA and is classified at A-level and AA-level. AA-level products areof higher standard than A-level products and correspond with organic prod-ucts. Of the 2000 certified green food products in China, only 10% is qualifiedat AA-level. The State Bureau for Environmental Protection is in charge of or-ganic product certification and co-operates with other international organicorganisations. Organic products are mainly for the export markets.</p><p>Another hot dispute concerning food safety is the character of geneticallymodified (GM) products. China is developing the largest plant biotechnologycapacity outside of North America. Bt1 cotton accounts for 30% of Chinascotton area, and other GM crops, such as rice, maize, wheat, soybeans and pea-</p><p>Xiaoyong Zhang 59</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f C</p><p>ambr</p><p>idge</p><p>] at</p><p> 07:</p><p>04 1</p><p>3 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>nuts are either in a research trial stage or ready for commercialisation (Huanget al., 2002 a, b). In January 2002, the MoA announced two GM food regula-tions for GM food import and labelling, in addition to previously publishedregulations for general GM food management. These regulations require allGM product importers to apply for safety verification from the MoA and allGM products, or products processed from GM materials, will have to be la-belled implicitly. The new regulations took effect on March 20, 2002. Untilnow, around two dozen trade companies have been granted GM product im-port and labelling permission.</p><p>TIANJIN CONSUMER CASE STUDY</p><p>The case study was carried out within the framework of the research projecttitled Strengthening Research and Extension on Sustainable Vegetable Pro-duction and Marketing in Tianjin financed by Dutch government Senteragency. Tianjin with a population of 10 million is the fourth largest city ofChina, located about 120 km southeast of Beijing. It is one of the four cities(with Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing) that have political status of a prov-ince in China. When carrying out this project in Tianjin, we strongly sensedthe consumers concerns about food safety, particularly with vegetables. Wedesigned this case study in order to gain insight into the consumers knowl-edge and awareness of food safety in order to be able to make recommenda-tions to both private sectors and governmental policies.</p><p>Survey Design and Data</p><p>Survey data were obtained by using structured questionnaires. The projectteam has contracted the Department of Agricultural Economics, Tianjin Agri-cultural College. The department staff was very committed and selected 30 topstudents to carry out the survey. After an experienced marketing researcherprovided a training course, these students were formed into pairs and given 20questionnaires. The interviews were conducted in the first week of October2001 when the school had a week-long national holiday. The students were in-structed to evenly select the 20 interviewees from different locations like su-permarkets, open markets, residential areas, streets, etc. There was noadditional restriction for the interview time since all retail outlets in Chinaopen more than 10 hours per day and seven days a week. Only 10 out of 308people approached refused to be interviewed.</p><p>The first part of the questionnaire covers demographic variables. The re-maining part of the questionnaire is related to consumer awareness of food</p><p>60 JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL FOOD &amp; AGRIBUSINESS MARKETING</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f C</p><p>ambr</p><p>idge</p><p>] at</p><p> 07:</p><p>04 1</p><p>3 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>safety. Selected consumer foods include pork, beef, chicken, fish, fresh milkand vegetables. Questions were asked about consumers general concernsabout the safety of selected products. The consumers awareness, purchase ex-periences and willingness to pay for pollution-free vegetables, green food, or-ganic food and GMO food were also measured. Ten items of the EBBTsub-scale were used to measure the consumers variety-seeking tendenciesand were measured against the five-point Likert scale (Baugartner andSteenkamp, 1996). More information about the EBBT application can befound in Zhang (2002).</p><p>General Concerns About Food Safety</p><p>From the six selected products, a four-point rating scale is used to assessconcerns ranging from not at all concerned to very much concerned. Theresults show that Tianjins consumers are most concerned about vegetablesand milk. Seventy percent and seventy-three percent of the consumers indicatethat they are very much concerned about milk and vegetable products respec-tively. Consumers are relatively confident about the quality of chicken andfish as only 40% claim to be very much concerned. Beef and pork have a mid-dle score of 54% and 64% respectively with regard to serious concerns.</p><p>We have asked consumers how important certain issues (such as gainingweight, falling ill, hormones, pesticides, harmful bacteria and nutrition lev-els) are when purchasing different products. Again, the four-point ratingscale is applied here from not at all concerned to very much concerned.The results indicate that consumers have different concerns about differentfoods. Consumers major concerns about pork are falling ill and harmfulbacteria, whilst being least concerned about gaining weight. With regard tofish, consumers care more about nutrition than anything else whilst beingleast concerned about gaining weight. Their main concerns about vegetablesare pesticides.</p><p>Awareness and Experiences of Pollution-Free, Green, Organicand GM Foods</p><p>Different quality products with various labels are available in the markets.Four types of products (pollution-free vegetables, green food, organic foodand GM food) have been listed and the consumer is asked about productawareness, purchase expe...</p></li></ul>