This research finds that locally-made infant foods in the greater Accra region have low availability and uneven quality, which are symptoms of asymmetric information between buyers and sellers. Under current market conditions, families cannot detect the quality of new products so they must rely on the advertising or else use labor-intensive methods to produce foods at home using known ingredients. Low-income households often cannot afford to buy or make enough quality foods to meet their infants’ needs, contributing to over 25% of Ghanaian children being physically stunted.
A remedy for asymmetric information is quality certification, which could improve nutrition by inducing more investment in quality control, wider distribution and more consumption of low cost, high quality products. Introducing quality certification could lead to increased availability and lower cost of high quality foods, for improved child nutrition at market scale.
To diagnose the need for quality certification, we used a new kind of survey to measure infant food availability, combined with laboratory tests of the infant foods currently being sold. The observed low availability and uneven quality could be remedied by quality certification. To implement certification in a way that can be monitored and scaled up, we propose a randomized rollout across market locations. A controlled trial of this type would demonstrate whether certification can attract producers and help consumers buy larger quantities at lower cost, and thereby promote market-scale improvements in child nutrition.