To legislate or not to legislate? The need for legislative policies in food reformulation

During this year’s International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity conference a symposium was conducted on the use of legislation to aid reformulation and create healthier food environments. A/Prof Jacqui Webster chaired the symposium which included three presentations, the first by Clare Farrand from The George Institute (TGI) on a rapid review of sugar reformulation efforts globally, finding 79 countries have a sugar reduction strategy, the majority of which are voluntary initiatives. Dr Kathy Trieu (TGI) then presented on the challenges of implementing voluntary reformulation initiatives in low and middle-income settings, through case studies from Fiji and Samoa. Finally, Dr Helen Eyles from Auckland University presented on the influence of the Health Star Rating food labels in New Zealand on processed packaged food reformulation, finding slow uptake and minimal influence on food reformulation from the voluntary scheme. The presenters and audience then discussed these findings, with consensus that while there is a need for reformulation, likely aided by legislation, there is also a need to focus more on efforts to shift diets away from processed packaged foods to increasing amounts of fresh foods.

Photo from left to right: Kathy Trieu, Jacqui Webster, Helen Eyles and Clare Farrand.