The Law and Chronic Disease Prevention: Possibilities and Politics
Medical Journal of Australia, Vol. 188, No. 2, pp. 104-105, 2008
7 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2008
Date Written: April 2008
If the law required restaurants to tell you the total calories and grams of saturated fat, trans fat, carbohydrates and salt in the food you order, would it make a difference to your food choices?
The California legislature thought so. In September 2007, it passed a law requiring food facilities with fifteen or more outlets to prominently display nutritional information for all fixed‐menu food items, together with the statement: "Recommended limits for a 2,000 calorie daily diet are 20 grams of saturated fat and 2,300 milligrams of sodium". The Bill was hotly contested by the food industry, and subsequently vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger. New York City, meanwhile, recently re‐introduced its own restaurant labelling law, requiring calorie information to be displayed in a typeface as large as the price.
Although governments are increasingly using law in innovative ways to support chronic disease prevention, law's role remains controversial. The food, tobacco and alcohol industries have lucrative markets to protect and there is a pervasive assumption that the solution to galloping rates of obesity, diabetes and other lifestyle diseases lies in individuals exercising greater self‐control. But preaching self‐control will not work if healthy choices are constantly undermined by other, more powerful influences. While law is not a complete answer, it can help to create supportive environments for changing the average behaviour of populations.
Keywords: non-communicable disease, chronic disease, law, public health, policy
JEL Classification: H51, I18, I10, K32, K30, K10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation