Food, Drug, and Product Safety

Tianjun FENG, L. Robin KELLER, Yitong WANG

Building upon a theoretical framework to understand the determinants of consumers’ risk perceptions and behavioral responses towards food, drug, and product safety crises, we have conducted a series of studies on safety crises in China.  We have conducted a large scale survey to collect consumers’ risk perceptions and behavioral responses towards food safety crises in China during the summer of 2012, plus the following two papers have been published, on toxic pharmaceutical capsules, and on contaminated pet food and toys with lead paint. 

An Empirical Study of the Toxic Capsule Crisis in China: Risk Perceptions and Behavioral Responses

The outbreak of the toxic capsule crisis during April 2012 aroused widespread public concern about the risk of chromium-contaminated capsules and drug safety in China.  In this paper, we develop a conceptual model to investigate risk perceptions of the pharmaceutical drug capsules and behavioral responses to the toxic capsule crisis and the relationship between associated factors and these two variables.  An online survey of consumers in China was conducted to test the model, including questions on the measures of perceived efficacy of the countermeasures, trust in the State FDA (Food and Drug Administration), trust in the pharmaceutical companies, trust in the pharmaceutical capsule producers, risk perception, concern, need for information, information seeking, and risk avoidance.  In general, participants reported higher levels of risk perception, concern, and risk avoidance, and lower levels of trust in the three different stakeholders.  The results from the structural equation modeling procedure suggest that perceived efficacy of the countermeasures is a predictor of each of the three trust variables; however, only trust in the State FDA has a dampening impact on risk perception.  Both risk perception and information seeking are significant determinants of risk avoidance.  Risk perception is also positively related to concern.  Information seeking is positively related to both concern and need for information.  The theoretical and policy implications are also discussed. 
Tianjun Feng (Fudan), L. Robin  Keller (UCI),  Ping Wu (Fudan), Yifan Xu (Fudan),  online in early view on 7-16-13, doi: 10.1111/risa.12099, forthcoming in print, Risk Analysis,

Product Quality Risk Perceptions and Decisions: Contaminated Pet Food and Lead-Painted Toys

In the context of the recent recalls in the United States of contaminated pet food and lead-painted toys originating from China, we examine patterns of risk perceptions and decisions when U.S. respondents face consumer product-caused quality risks.  Two approaches were used to explore risk perceptions of the product recalls.  In the first approach, we elicited judged probabilities and found that people appear to have greatly overestimated the actual risks for both product scenarios.  In the second approach, we applied the psychometric paradigm to examine risk perception dimensions concerning these two specific products through factor analysis.  There was a similar risk perception pattern for both products: they are seen as unknown risks and are relatively not dread risks.  This pattern was also similar to what prior research found for lead paint.  Further, we studied people’s potential actions to deal with the recalls of these two products.  Several factors were found to be significant predictors of respondents’ cautious actions for both product scenarios.  Policy considerations regarding product quality risks are discussed.  For example, risk communicators could reframe information messages to prompt people to consider total risks packed together from different causes, even when the risk message has been initiated due to a specific recall event. 

Tianjun Feng (UCI Merage doctoral alumnus, Associate Professor at Fudan University), L. Robin Keller, Liangyan Wang (UCI Merage doctoral alumna, Associate Professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University), and Yitong Wang (UCI Merage doctoral alumnus, Lecturer (i.e., assistant professor) at University Technology Sydney). Risk Analysis, October 2010, 30(10), 1572–1589.  Working paper version of accepted paper: Product_Quality_Risk_Perceptions-FINAL-web-posting.

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