Inhibitors and Supporters of Policy Change in the Regulation of Unhealthy Food Marketing in Australia

Document Type : Original Article


1 School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet), College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia

2 Institute for Population and Social Research, Mahidol University, Salaya, Thailand

3 School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

4 Menzies Centre for Health Policy and Economics, Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia


Evidence on the impact of policies that regulate unhealthy food marketing demonstrates a need for a shift from pure industry self-regulation toward statutory regulation. Institutional rules, decision-making procedures, actor practices, and institutional norms influence the regulatory choices made by policy-makers. This study examined institutional processes that sustain, support, or inhibit change in the food marketing regulation in Australia using the three pillars of institutions framework – regulatory, normative, and cultural cognitive pillars.
This was a qualitative study. Twenty-four in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with industry, government, civil society, and academic actors who are involved in nutrition policy in Australia.
The regulatory pillar was perceived to inhibit policy change through the co-regulation and self-regulation frameworks that assign rulemaking, monitoring and enforcement to industry bodies with minimal oversight by regulatory agencies and no involvement of health actors. The normative pillar was perceived to provide pathways for comprehensive statutory regulation through institutional goals and norms for collaboration that centre on a whole-ofgovernment approach. The framing of food marketing policies to highlight the vulnerability of children is a cultural cognitive element that was perceived to be essential for getting support for policy change; however, there was a lack of shared understanding of food marketing as a policy issue. In addition, government ideologies that are perceived to be reluctant to regulate commercial actors and values that prioritize economic interest over public health make it difficult for health advocates to argue for statutory regulation of food marketing.
Elements of all three pillars (regulatory, normative, and cultural-cognitive) were identified as either inhibitors or pathways that support policy change. This study contributes to the understanding of factors that inhibit policy change and potential pathways for implementing comprehensive statutory regulation of unhealthy food marketing.


  • Receive Date: 23 May 2022
  • Revise Date: 27 September 2023
  • Accept Date: 12 February 2024
  • First Publish Date: 13 February 2024