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A qualitative analysis of the enforcement of the regulation of nutrition and health claims made for foods and its implications for health

Patel, A and Patel, S and Gregg, R and O Connor, L (2018) A qualitative analysis of the enforcement of the regulation of nutrition and health claims made for foods and its implications for health. PLoS ONE, 13 (7). pp. 1-12. ISSN 1932-6203

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Abstract

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. In common with local government organisations across the world, local authorities in the UK have responsibility for promoting health. A key part of this function is the frontline enforcement activities of officers responsible for compliance with health and nutrition claims. This study identifies attitudes, values and practices of enforcers: namely trading standards and environmental health officers, when faced with the problem of non-compliance with the Regulation. Semi-structured interviews with frontline enforcers from local authority regulatory services to investigate challenges with the enforcement of Regulation (EC) 1924/2006. Twenty participants were interviewed; sixteen were based in North West England and two in the North and two in the South of England. The participants were selected for their specialist knowledge and experience of enforcement of nutrition and health claims. Regulation (EC) No. 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims presents particular challenges for enforcers seeking to apply an optimal strategy to flawed regulatory design. As with other regulations, when faced with non-compliance, enforcers, specifically trading standards and environmental health officers have a wide discretion to determine their response: ranging from the deterrent or accommodative styles of enforcement. The participants reported using advice rather than action and by doing so confronting their bifurcating identity of prosecutor and advisor. Enforcers used advice as a regulatory tool in enforcing the law relating to nutrition and health claims.

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