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Regional patterns of food safety in China: What can we learn from media data?


  • Holtkamp, Nicholas
  • Liu, Peng
  • McGuire, William


China's food safety system is characterized by widespread under-enforcement of regulations punctuated by high-profile food safety scandals. While there has been a wave of public and scholarly interest, official data on food safety are scarce, and some fundamental questions remain unanswered. We evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of media-based event data as a source for scholars and policy makers interested in understanding more about China's food safety crisis. While some biases are likely present, we find that the data produce a reasonable set of results: food safety problems are most acute in poor provinces, and where government expenditures are low. Reported food safety incidents also increase with the rate of urbanization, which may reflect the increased complexity of urban food systems or an urban bias in Chinese media. Importantly, our results indicate that media data can be a valid source for scholars interested in studying food safety or other controversial topics in China.

Suggested Citation

  • Holtkamp, Nicholas & Liu, Peng & McGuire, William, 2014. "Regional patterns of food safety in China: What can we learn from media data?," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 459-468.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:chieco:v:30:y:2014:i:c:p:459-468
    DOI: 10.1016/j.chieco.2014.07.003

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. David L. Ortega & H. Holly Wang & Nicole J. Olynk & Laping Wu & Junfei Bai, 2012. "Chinese Consumers' Demand for Food Safety Attributes: A Push for Government and Industry Regulations," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 94(2), pages 489-495.
    2. Wang, Zhigang & Mao, Yanna & Gale, Fred, 2008. "Chinese consumer demand for food safety attributes in milk products," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 27-36, February.
    3. Pei, Xiaofang & Tandon, Annuradha & Alldrick, Anton & Giorgi, Liana & Huang, Wei & Yang, Ruijia, 2011. "The China melamine milk scandal and its implications for food safety regulation," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 412-420, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Liu, Peng & Ma, Liang, 2016. "Food scandals, media exposure, and citizens’ safety concerns: A multilevel analysis across Chinese cities," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 102-111.
    2. repec:pkk:meb017:66-77 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    China; Food safety; Regulation; Media event data;

    JEL classification:

    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • Q18 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Policy; Food Policy
    • D18 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Protection


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