Journal of Bioethical Inquiry

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 149-163

First online:

Private Governance, Public Purpose? Assessing Transparency and Accountability in Self-Regulation of Food Advertising to Children

  • Belinda ReeveAffiliated withFaculty of Law, University of Sydney Email author 

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Reducing non-core food advertising to children is an important priority in strategies to address childhood obesity. Public health researchers argue for government intervention on the basis that food industry self-regulation is ineffective; however, the industry contends that the existing voluntary scheme adequately addresses community concerns. This paper examines the operation of two self-regulatory initiatives governing food advertising to children in Australia, in order to determine whether these regulatory processes foster transparent and accountable self-regulation. The paper concludes that while both codes appear to establish transparency and accountability mechanisms, they do not provide for meaningful stakeholder participation in the self-regulatory scheme. Accordingly, food industry self-regulation is unlikely to reflect public health concerns or to be perceived as a legitimate form of governance by external stakeholders. If industry regulation is to remain a feasible alternative to statutory regulation, there is a strong argument for strengthening government oversight and implementing a co-regulatory scheme.


Self-regulation Food industry Obesity Advertising