Modeling heterogeneity in consumer preferences for select food safety attributes in China
Food safety issues often arise from asymmetric information between consumers and suppliers with regards to product-specific attributes. Severe food safety scandals were observed recently in China. These events not only caused direct economic and life losses, but also created distrust in the Chinese food system domestically, as well as internationally. While much attention has focused on the problems plaguing the Chinese government's food inspection system, little research has been dedicated to analyzing Chinese consumers' concerns surrounding food safety. In this paper, we measure consumer preferences for select food safety attributes in pork and take food safety risk perceptions into account. Several choice experiment models, including latent class and random parameters logit, are constructed to capture heterogeneity in consumer preferences. Our results suggest that Chinese consumers have the highest willingness-to-pay for a government certification program, followed by third-party certification, a traceability system, and a product-specific information label. The results of this study call for the direct involvement of the Chinese government in the food safety system. A stricter monitoring system will not only improve consumer well-being in the short-run, but also restore consumers' trust leading to a social welfare increase in the long run.
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