05 September 2015

Regulation and Food Pyramids

'Corporate Practices and the Implementation of Self-Regulation - The Food Pyramid Meets the Regulatory Pyramid: Responsive Regulation of Food Advertising to Children' (Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 15/41) by Belinda Reeve comments
The success of self-regulation depends upon whether companies internalise the social norms contained in voluntary codes. Accordingly, this chapter describes how and why food and alcohol companies comply with voluntary advertising initiatives (to the extent that they do). It draws upon interviews conducted with representatives of signatories to the RCMI, QSRI and ABAC, who have been given pseudonyms to protect their anonymity. The chapter also analyses selected food and alcohol company corporate social responsibility documents, as well as findings from the independent review of food industry self-regulation, published in 2012. I describe how transnational food and alcohol companies have attempted to meet public demands for more responsible marketing practices through their corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices. Then I describe the reasons that Australian food and alcohol companies give for adopting advertising self-regulation and how they integrated code requirements into their marketing activities. I present the paradox that some companies are adhering tightly to voluntary initiatives, yet self-regulation has had little impact on children’s overall exposure to food and alcohol advertising. One explanation for the codes’ lack of impact lies in their weak substantive standards. While this is not fatal to the success of self-regulation, I conclude that food companies have few incentives to adopt the more demanding restrictions that could significantly improve the food marketing environment. 
Reeve's 'The Business of Public Health? Health Sector Participation in Food Industry Self-Regulation - The Food Pyramid Meets the Regulatory Pyramid: Responsive Regulation of Food Advertising to Children' (Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 15/42), another part of her PhD dissertation, comments on
 the possibility of enhancing stakeholder participation in food industry self-regulation as a way of strengthening the public’s interest in the program. I use the alcohol industry’s ABAC Scheme as an example of what a more collaborative approach might look like in practice, as it includes both public health and government representation in its governance processes. The chapter draws upon data from interviews with representatives of nine public health advocacy organisations and research institutes and two interviews with academic researchers. I also present findings from interviews with two representatives of alcohol trade associations, one member of the ABAC Management Committee, two members of the ABAC Adjudication Panel and a representative of the Advertising Standards Bureau. The chapter begins by discussing the increasing use of collaborative initiatives in public health. Next I explore the extent to which public health advocates influence food and alcohol industry self-regulation, both indirectly and by participating in self-regulatory processes. Then I report on whether public health interviewees thought it would be appropriate for public health stakeholders to join non-statutory, quasi-regulatory processes governing food advertising, similar to the ABAC Scheme. I conclude by arguing against external stakeholder participation in industry-based schemes, at least in the absence of government intervention and oversight, because of the significant risk that public health interests will be subverted by those of industry.