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Joined-up food policy? The trials of governance, public policy and the food system

Barling, D., Lang, T. & Caraher, M. (2002). Joined-up food policy? The trials of governance, public policy and the food system. Social Policy & Administration, 36(6), pp. 556-574. doi: 10.1111/1467-9515.t01-1-00304


To address the policy malfunctions of the recent past and present, UK food policy needs to link policy areas that in the past have been dealt with in a disparate manner, and to draw on a new ecological public health approach. This will need a shift within the dominant trade liberalization–national economic competitiveness paradigm that currently informs UK food policy, and the international levels of the EU and the WTO trade rules, and grants the large corporate players in the food system a favoured place at the policy–making tables. The contradictions of the food system have wrought crises that have engendered widespread institutional change at all levels of governance. Recent institutional reforms to UK food policy, such as the FSA and DEFRA, reflect a bounded approach to policy integration. Initiatives seeking a more integrated approach to food policy problems, such as the Social Exclusion Unit’s access to shops report, and the Policy Commission on the Future of Food and Farming, can end up confined to a particular policy sector framed by particular interests—a process of “policy confinement”. However, the UK can learn from the experience of Norway and Finland who have found their own routes to a more joined–up approach to public health and a sustainable food supply by, for example, introducing a national food policy council to provide integrated policy advice. Also, at the local and community levels in the UK, policy alternatives are being advanced in an ad hoc fashion by local food initiatives. More structural–level interventions at the regional and local governance levels are also needed to address the social dimensions of a sustainable food supply

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: The definitive version is available at
Publisher Keywords: food policy, public health, policy integration, policy confinement, sustainable food supply, multi-level governance
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management > Food Policy
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