Chinese consumers consider New Zealand's dairy products less safe compared to other major competitors in the United States and Europe. According to a Massey University survey, the Chinese were still spooked by Fonterra's botulism scare in 2013.
In a university survey of 531 people in China's Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province, in October 2013, over 28 per cent of Chinese consumers think milk products from New Zealand were "not very safe." New Zealand was rated the least safe compared to Australia's 14.8 per cent, U.S. with 13.2 per cent and Europe with 12.5 per cent.
However, Chinese consumers perceived New Zealand dairy products to be safer than China. Chinese milk products were viewed not safe by 64.9 per cent of respondents.
Nearly 72 per cent of Chinese consumers regarded dairy products from New Zealand as "very safe." Those who thought European milk is safer were 87.6 per cent while 85.1 percent think Australian products are safe and 86.9 per cent for U.S. products.
According to Massey University professor of food safety and microbiology Steve Flint, the research only proves that Fonterra's botulism scare had affected the perception of Chinese consumers regarding New Zealand dairy products. The power of publicity had influenced the people's trust in food quality.
Professor Flint said New Zealand has always been proud of its food products and the economy is based on its reputation as a quality food provider. He said it was important for New Zealand Prime Minister John Key to gain positive media coverage in his official visit to China and restore the confidence of Chinese consumers.
When Fonterra's botulism scare was first made known, the prime minister assured Chinese officials that he would reveal all the information he had with Chinese consumers. Mr Key said it is important in Chinese culture to pay respect and share information. Even if the findings indicate that there was no contamination, Mr Key feels the need for New Zealand to honour that commitment.
Previously, Fonterra, New Zealand's biggest exporter of baby formula, had admitted to four charges in which it failed to meet standards for animal products. Fonterra also acknowledged it did not inform officials soon enough about a possible contamination despite knowing there was a problem.