Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Self-regulation of food marketing to children

Food and beverage industry self-regulation is commonly seen as mere window dressing for doing nothing about intense food and beverage marketing to children in the midst of an epidemic of childhood obesity.

Yet, many economists support government interventions to address the problem only if they are narrowly tailored to solve "market failures" -- situations where the market system fails to serve the public interest. If the market's own response suffices, it may be preferable to the government response.

And, many legal experts like restrictions on advertising only if the restrictions are narrowly tailored to be "no more extensive than necessary."

Of course, companies themselves prefer self-regulation.

With these multiple sources of support, the federal government has determined to attempt a period of self-regulation.

The questions that interest me most are: (1) how will this period of self-regulation be evaluated?; and (2) if the self-regulation fails, will the economists and legal experts follow the logic of their own arguments and support a stronger government response?

My longer version of this discussion has just been published in Nutrition Reviews (contact me by email if your library lacks access).

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