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 article, 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 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.