Government regulation to promote healthy food environments--a view from inside state governments

Obes Rev. 2012 Feb;13(2):162-73. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00937.x. Epub 2011 Sep 29.


Food policy interventions are an important component of obesity-prevention strategies and can potentially drive positive changes in obesogenic environments. This study sought to identify regulatory interventions targeting the food environment, and barriers/facilitators to their implementation at the Australian state government level. In-depth interviews were conducted with senior representatives from state/territory governments, statutory authorities and non-government organizations (n =45) to examine participants' (i) suggestions for regulatory interventions for healthier food environments and (ii) support for pre-selected regulatory interventions derived from a literature review. Data were analysed using thematic and constant comparative analyses. Interventions commonly suggested by participants were regulating unhealthy food marketing; limiting the density of fast food outlets; pricing reforms to decrease fruit/vegetable prices and increase unhealthy food prices; and improved food labelling. The most commonly supported pre-selected interventions were related to food marketing and service. Primary production and retail sector interventions were least supported. The dominant themes were the need for whole-of-government and collaborative approaches; the influence of the food industry; conflicting policies/agenda; regulatory challenges; the need for evidence of effectiveness; and economic disincentives. While interventions such as public sector healthy food service policies were supported by participants, marketing restrictions and fiscal interventions face substantial barriers including a push for deregulation and private sector opposition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Commerce / economics
  • Commerce / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Health Policy*
  • Health Promotion / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Health Promotion / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Public Health
  • State Government*