Can information drive demand for safer food? Impact of brand-specific recommendations and test results on product choice

Kariuki, Sarah Wairimu; Hoffmann, Vivian


As an unobservable attribute, food safety is likely to be under-provided by markets where regulatory enforcement is weak. In such settings, stimulating consumer demand for safer food can potentially encourage market actors to invest in food safety. Through a randomized trial in Kenya, we test the impact of informing consumers about which maize flour brands are most likely to comply with the regulatory standard for aflatoxin, a carcinogenic fungal byproduct. Providing information on safer brands alone does not significantly affect consumption behavior. However, when the same information is combined with a test performed on the maize flour stocked by the household, the likelihood that a safer brand is consumed 2 months later is 76% higher than in the comparison group. Our findings suggest that providing information on the relative riskiness of substitute foods could encourage consumers to make safer choices.