Intended for healthcare professionals


Industry self-regulation fails to deliver healthier diets, again

BMJ 2021; 372 doi: (Published 06 January 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;372:m4762
  1. Paraskevi Seferidi, research fellow,
  2. Christopher Millett, professor,
  3. Anthony A Laverty, lecturer
  1. Public Health Policy Evaluation Unit, School of Public Health, Imperial College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to: A A Laverty a.laverty{at}

Public Health England’s replacement must take bolder action

In common with much of the rest of the world, the UK has inequity in access to healthy food. Feast day food is available every day, driving higher levels of overweight and obesity, while substantial numbers of people are hungry and undernourished. No single action will solve these problems, but governmental regulation to improve the nutritional content of foods should be an important part of any plan.

Industry self-regulation to improve diets has been in vogue worldwide for more than a decade, but evidence has steadily accrued on its deficits. The latest Public Health England (PHE) report on the voluntary sugar reduction strategy 2015-19 should finally put an end to the idea that industry self-regulation works.1 The strategy challenges the food industry to achieve a 20% reduction in the sugar content of foods that contribute most to children’s sugar intake, and suggests reformulation, changes to product size, or shifting …

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