Obesity and industry self-regulation of food and beverage marketing: a literature review

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Obesity is a growing concern at national and international levels, and it is increasingly recognised that the industry has a role in and hence needs to be involved in halting the obesity epidemic. The objective of this study is to describe, analyse and evaluate research on industry self-regulation regarding food and beverage marketing and nutrition labelling.


Five databases were searched for combinations of the search terms—obesity, nutrition, food, beverages, industry, self-regulation, labelling, advertising and marketing—and papers were selected on the basis of paper titles and, subsequently, on the basis of abstracts.


Of the 4978 identified publications, 22 were included in the final review. The studies show that commitments in industry self-regulation schemes tend to be relatively vague and permissive, that the measurable effects of the self-regulations tend to be relatively small and that some extent of public regulation may catalyse the effectiveness of industry self-regulation.


Although the reviewed studies vary in terms of analytic units and methods applied, they generally stress an ineffectiveness of existing self-regulation schemes. Food industry self-regulation in relation to obesity prevention is an emerging field of research, and further research is needed in such schemes' definitions of regulatory standards, their monitoring and sanctioning mechanisms, and their interactions with public regulation, if industry self-regulation of marketing behaviour is to become an effective and credible approach.

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