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Missing links between regulatory resources and risk concerns: Evidence from the case of food safety in China



Do resources available to regulatory agencies matter for public perceptions of social risks? In this paper we use the case of food safety in China to empirically examine the relationship between regulatory resources and risk concerns. The multilevel model estimates suggest that neither regulatory revenue nor personnel is significantly related to public concerns over food safety. There is also no significant interaction effect between regulatory resources and food scandals. Despite the fact that sufficient fiscal revenue and manpower are the prerequisites of effective food safety regulation, they do not elicit more favorable public perceptions. These are the two missing links leading to the insignificant effect of regulatory resource inputs. First, ineffective distribution and deployment of resources and the lack of external participation retard the growth of regulatory capacity. Second, underinvestment in risk communication and the amplification effect of risks undermine regulatory legitimacy. We discuss the theoretical and policy implications of the results, and conclude with research limitations and suggestions for future research.