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Food governance

Drawing upon public health law to regulate private behaviour

We’re exploring how governments can use legal strategies to create conditions for people to live healthier lives.

Our collaboration team seeks to find solutions at the junction of law and public health, drawing on legal expertise across the University and its medical research institutes, fostering collaboration between lawyers and clinicians, nutritionists, health scientists, policymakers and others to develop practical solutions and create real change.

We plan to take a public health law approach to recognise that the law can be used to create conditions for people to live healthier lives. This approach will include drawing on lessons from Australia’s global leadership in tobacco control and considering the divergence of health risk factors and commercial profits. Our project node will use the concept of ‘responsive regulation’ as a progressive approach to regulation where industry interests are involved.

Our team will use a cross-disciplinary platform to explore the use of regulatory strategies to prevent diet-related disease and promote healthier diets.

This research will empower governments to regulate private behaviour to promote public health. Legal strategies like new legislation, heightened regulatory enforcement and litigation can be a highly cost-effective mechanism to deliver health benefits to the population.

Food Governance Conference

  • Under the auspices of the Food Governance Node, Drs Belinda Reeve and Alexandra Jones (Node co-founders) established Australia’s first Food Governance Conference.
  • The conference is a collaborative endeavour between The University of Sydney Law School, the Charles Perkins Centre and the George Institute for Global Health, and was first run at Sydney Law School in July 2016. The conference brings together lawyers, nutritionists, policy analysts, and health scientists to explore how law, policy, and regulation address food system challenges or contribute to them at local, national, regional, and global levels. This includes issues such as food security, food safety, food sustainability, equity and social justice in global food systems, and nutrition: under/malnutrition, obesity, and noncommunicable disease

Senate Select Committee into the Obesity Epidemic in Australia 

  • The Food Governance Node made a written submission to the Federal Senate Select Committee into the Obesity Epidemic in Australia, headed by the then-leader of the Australian Greens Party, Dr Richard Di Natale. The Node’s submission outlined key gaps in the Federal Government’s policy and regulatory response to obesity, as well as the shortcomings in the existing voluntary initiatives that apply to unhealthy food marketing to children, interpretive food labelling, and processed food product reformulation
  • On the basis of this submission, Drs Alexandra Jones and Belinda Reeve were invited to give in-person evidence on behalf of the Node at a hearing of the Federal Senate Select Committee on the 6th of August 2018. This evidence, and the Node’s written submission, are cited in the Committee’s final report.

ARC Discovery Grant

  • ARC Discovery ($422,000, 2019. DP190102494) to investigate the role of law, regulation and policy in enabling local governments and communities in NSW and Victoria to contribute to healthy, sustainable, and equitable food systems
  • The project aims to generate recommendations for law and policy reform that will empower local governments and communities to participate more effectively in food system governance at the local level. Led by Dr Reeve, the research team includes investigators at the University of Sydney, the University of Wollongong and the William Angliss Institute (Victoria), with disciplinary expertise in law, nutrition, and food systems.

Project Node Leader

Alexandra Jones

Project Node Leader

Dr Belinda Reeve