Government regulation to promote healthy food environments – a view from inside state governments


Miss J Shill, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Victoria 3125, Australia. E-mail:


Food policy interventions are an important component of obesity-prevention strategies and can potentially drive positive changes in obesogenic environments. This study sought to identify regulatory interventions targeting the food environment, and barriers/facilitators to their implementation at the Australian state government level. In-depth interviews were conducted with senior representatives from state/territory governments, statutory authorities and non-government organizations (n = 45) to examine participants' (i) suggestions for regulatory interventions for healthier food environments and (ii) support for pre-selected regulatory interventions derived from a literature review. Data were analysed using thematic and constant comparative analyses. Interventions commonly suggested by participants were regulating unhealthy food marketing; limiting the density of fast food outlets; pricing reforms to decrease fruit/vegetable prices and increase unhealthy food prices; and improved food labelling. The most commonly supported pre-selected interventions were related to food marketing and service. Primary production and retail sector interventions were least supported. The dominant themes were the need for whole-of-government and collaborative approaches; the influence of the food industry; conflicting policies/agenda; regulatory challenges; the need for evidence of effectiveness; and economic disincentives. While interventions such as public sector healthy food service policies were supported by participants, marketing restrictions and fiscal interventions face substantial barriers including a push for deregulation and private sector opposition.