Public Health Ethics 11 (1):54-68 (2018)

Around the world, unhealthy diets are a leading cause of disease. Shifting population diets in a healthier direction will require downstream policy interventions. This means changing the composition of the processed food supply, particularly reducing salt, sugar and fat. Mandatory nutrient limits imposed by government are one way of achieving this. However, they have been criticized as a particularly intrusive regulatory option, interfering with both free markets and free choices. At the same time, voluntary industry reformulation has become an intervention favoured by national governments, the World Health Organization and the food industry. This article uses a comparison of the two interventions—which share a common public health goal, albeit achieved through different regulatory means—as a basis to evaluate the ethical charges against mandatory nutrient limits. It makes three main findings: that both affect free dietary choice in very similar ways; that dominant public health ethics frameworks are not well equipped to compare mandatory and voluntary forms of regulation; and that food governance is inherently multisectoral, involving markets, governments and the public. Taking these findings into account, the article calls for a more nuanced ethical evaluation of food reformulation policies.
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DOI 10.1093/phe/phx019
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Trans Fat Bans and Human Freedom.David Resnik - 2010 - American Journal of Bioethics 10 (3):27-32.

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