Regulation of Food Advertising to Children in Six Jurisdictions: A Framework for Analyzing and Improving the Performance of Regulatory Instruments
61 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2018 Last revised: 7 Mar 2018
Date Written: February 27, 2018
Childhood obesity is a public health crisis, and globally, at least 170 million young people are overweight or obese. Research identifies food marketing as a key risk factor for childhood weight gain, yet there is significant debate over how food marketing to children should be regulated. This paper analyzes regulatory controls on food marketing in six jurisdictions—the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland, Canada, and Quebec— with the aim of evaluating whether regulation in each jurisdiction exhibits the features of an effective, transparent, and accountable regulatory regime. These jurisdictions use different forms of regulation to restrict food marketing to children (e.g. self-regulation, co-regulation and statutory regulation), yet research suggests that none have been entirely successful in protecting children from exposure to marketing of unhealthy food. Drawing on the disciplines of public health and regulatory studies, we present a theoretical framework for the design of effective food advertising regulation. We use this framework to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of regulation in each jurisdiction, and to explain why both public and private regulation has been less than successful in improving the food marketing environment. Our analysis reveals significant loopholes in the substantive provisions of regulatory instruments used to restrict food marketing to children, as well as limitations in the processes of monitoring, review, and enforcement established by each scheme. Our paper concludes by pointing to ways in which food advertising regulatory schemes could be progressively strengthened, including through the use of regulatory “scaffolds” to improve the transparency, accountability and performance of regulatory instruments.
Keywords: childhood obesity, food marketing, regulation, law
JEL Classification: I18, I10, K10, K30, K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation