The Food Industry and Self-Regulation

Standards to Promote Success and to Avoid Public Health Failures

Threatened by possible government regulation and critical public opinion, industries often undertake self-regulatory actions, issue statements of concern for public welfare, and assert that self-regulation is sufficient to protect the public. The food industry has made highly visible pledges to curtail children’s food marketing, sell fewer unhealthy products in schools, and label foods in responsible ways. Ceding regulation to industry carries opportunities but is highly risky. In some industries (e.g., tobacco), self-regulation has been an abject failure, but in others (e.g., forestry and marine fisheries), it has been more successful. The authors examined food industry self-regulation in the context of other self-regulatory successes and failures and defined eight standards that should be met if self-regulation is to be effective.

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