Regulatory approaches to obesity prevention: A systematic overview of current laws addressing diet-related risk factors in the European Union and the United States Academic Article uri icon


  • High prevalence of overweight and obesity remains a significant international public health problem. Law has been identified as a tool for obesity prevention and selected high-profile measures have been reported. However, the nature and extent of enacted legislation internationally are unclear. This research provides an overview of regulatory approaches enacted in the United States, the European Union, and EU Member States since 2004. To this end, relevant databases of primary and secondary legislation were systematically searched to identify and explore laws addressing dietary risk factors for obesity. Across jurisdictions, current regulatory approaches to obesity prevention are limited in reach and scope. Target groups are rarely the general population, but instead sub-populations in government-supported settings. Consumer information provision is preferred over taxation and marketing restrictions other than the regulation of health and nutrition claims. In the EU in particular, product reformulation with industry consent has also emerged as a popular small-scale measure. While consistent and widespread use of law is lacking, governments have employed a range of regulatory measures in the name of obesity prevention, indicating that there is, in principle, political will. Results from this study may serve as a starting point for future research and policy development.

publication date

  • 2015