Food Fraud and the Perceived Integrity of European Food Imports into China

Helen Kendall, Paul Naughton, Sharron Kuznesof, M Raley, Moira Dean, Beth Clark, H Stolz, Robert Home, M Chan, Q Zhong, Paul Brereton, Lynn Frewer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)
315 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Background/aims:
Persistent incidents of food fraud in China have resulted in low levels of consumer trust in the authenticity and safety of food that is domestically produced. We examined the relationship between the concerns of Chinese consumers regarding food fraud, and the role that demonstrating authenticity may play in relieving those concerns.
Methods:
A two-stage mixed method design research design was adopted. First, qualitative research (focus groups n=7) was conducted in three Chinese cities, Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu to explore concerns held by Chinese consumers in relation to food fraud. A subsequent quantitative survey (n=850) tested hypotheses derived from the qualitative research and theoretical literature regarding the relationship between attitudinal measures (including risk perceptions, social trust, and perceptions of benefit associated with demonstrating authenticity), and behavioral intention to purchase “authentic” European products using structural equation modelling.
Results
Chinese consumers perceive food fraud to be a hazard that represents a food safety risk. Food hazard concern was identified to be geographically influenced. Consumers in Chengdu (tier 2 city) possessed higher levels of hazard concern compared to consumers in Beijing and Guangzhou (tier 1). Structural trust (i.e. trust in actors and the governance of the food supply chain) was not a significant predictor of attitude and intention to purchase authenticated food products. Consumers were shown to have developed ‘risk-relieving’ strategies to compensate for the lack of trust in Chinese food and the dissonance experienced as a consequence of food fraud. Indexical and iconic authenticity cues provided by food manufacturers and regulators were important elements of product evaluations, although there are geographical differences in their relative importance.
Conclusions:
Targeted communication of authenticity assurance measures, including, regulations, enforcement, product testing and actions taken by industry may improve Chinese consumer trust in the domestic food supply chain and abate concerns regarding the safety risks associated with food fraud. To support product differentiation and retain prestige, European food manufactures operating within the Chinese market should recognise regional disparities in consumer risk perceptions regarding food fraud and the importance of personal risk mitigation strategies adopted by Chinese consumers to support the identification of authentic products.
Keywords: Food fraud, middle-class Chinese consumers, mixed-methods.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-27
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume13
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 May 2018

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