Reflections on Public Health Policy in the Food Regulatory System: Challenges, and Opportunities for Nutrition and Food Law Experts to Collaborate

Mark Lawrence


Diet-related diseases such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer are reaching epidemic proportions in many developed countries. Although there are increasing calls across the food regulatory system for interventions to help protect and promote public health, there is not a
strong history of collaboration between public health nutritionists and food law experts in this area. This article explores the challenges facing public health nutritionists and food law experts and their opportunities to collaborate in the food regulatory system. Through a reflection on experiences with food fortification and food labelling policy debates,
challenges to the objective of protecting public health and safety in the food regulatory system are identified. These challenges include: the absence of a coherent food and nutrition policy; the lack of a clear definition of what is
meant by the objective ‘to protect public health and safety’; capacity constraints; and limitations imposed by dominant regulatory reform agendas. Two case studies are provided to describe opportunities that are being pursued for public health nutritionists and food law experts to collaborate in the food regulatory system. The first case study describes a
research project investigating reform of the Australian food regulatory system in relation to obesity prevention. The second case study describes a research proposal to review the role of nutrition in decision-making within the Australian food regulatory system. The paper concludes that, to become
more effective when working across the food regulatory system to protect and promote public health, public health nutritionists and food law experts need to collaborate more strategically in research and practice.

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