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New Zealand’s fragile food safety reputation in China

Wednesday, March 19, 2014
New Zealand’s fragile food safety reputation in China

A consumer confidence survey suggests Prime Minister John Key will have plenty of work to do to rebuild trust in New Zealand dairy products during his current visit to China.

The survey, conducted by Massey University in the Northwest city of Lanzhou, shows New Zealand food products were regarded as carrying a greater food safety risk than foods from many other countries.

Some 28 per cent of the 531 participants rated New Zealand dairy products ‘not very safe’. This is a significantly higher percentage than products from Australia (14.8 per cent), Canada (14.8 per cent), United States, 13.2 per cent) and the European Union (12.5 per cent).

The survey was conducted in October last year, two months after Fonterra’s botulism scare that sparked a global recall of infant formula, but turned out to be a false alarm.

Massey University Professor of Food Safety and Microbiology, Steve Flint, says this is likely to have influenced the results.

“If this is true, then this demonstrates the power of media publicity in influencing people’s trust in food safety,” Professor Flint says.

He says it will be important for Prime Minister John Key to generate positive media coverage within China as he seeks to restore confidence in New Zealand’s dairy exports during his visit.

“In New Zealand we pride ourselves on our reputation as a provider of safe food to the world. Our economy is based on this reputation.

“China is one of our biggest export markets and we have long been of the opinion that the Chinese trust New Zealand products. If this is not the case, then we have to reassess our international standing when it comes to how our customers view the safety of our food.”

Chinese Ambassador to New Zealand Wang Luton recently said New Zealand accounted for 70 per cent of China’s imported dairy products.

Professor Flint says they hope to conduct a similar survey in the future to determine how New Zealand’s reputation as a trusted supplier of food is trending in China.

CountryNot very safeVery safeTotal (N=100%)Don’t know (N) (percent of total sample)
European Union12.5%87.6%(409)(120) (22.6%)
United States13.2%86.9%(442)(86) (16.2%)
Australia14.8%85.1%(403)(126) (23.7%)
Canada14.8%85.3%(367)(160) (30.1%)
New Zealand28.1%71.9%(428)(99) (18.6%)
China64.9%35.1%(507)(21) (4.05%)

TABLE 1 Consumer confidence in dairy products originating from different regions

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