Ending childhood obesity: a legal challenge

The number of obese children and adolescents (aged five to 19 years) worldwide has risen tenfold in the past four decades, from 11 million in 1975 to 124 million in 2016. In 2016, an additional 213 million were overweight. Obesity is a major risk factor for a broad range of non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, and some cancers. Childhood obesity more specifically is associated with a higher chance of obesity, premature death and preventable disability in adulthood. It also affects a child’s immediate health, education attainment and quality of life.

Unhealthy diets are one of the main NCD risk factors and contribute to childhood obesity. As part of the reflection on how law can help prevent childhood obesity, the Law & NCD Unit has engaged in the academic and wider debates surrounding obesity, and childhood obesity more specifically.‌

    Our activities on obesity prevention and the regulation of food and alcohol marketing to children
    • In July 2016, the Law & NCD Unit organised a two-day international conference at the University of Liverpol London Campus, on the topic Ending Childhood Obesity: A Challenge at the Crossroads of International Trade and Human Rights Law. This conference was also the launch event for the Law & NCD Unit. Welcoming a range of academic and non-academic participants, the conference aimed to reflect on the role of law in preventing childhod obesity, and more specifically the importance of engaging with international trade and human rights law to understand their relationship in effectively protecting children from obesity and related NCDs.
    • Following the Ending Childhood Obesity conference, Amandine Garde, Joshua Curtis and Olivier de Schutter are editing a collection, to be published in 2019 by Edward Elgar in its new Health and the Law series. The collection explores the relevance of international human rights, trade and investment law to obesity prevention, and the role that law can and should play in preventing childhood obesity. This book features contributions from several Unit members (Oliver Bartlett, Seamus Byrne, Joshua Curtis, Amandine Garde, Nikhil Gokani, Gregory Messenger and Mavluda Sattorova), as well as several other colleagues who have worked closely with the Unit and its members over the years (Wenche Barth Eide, Oscar Cabrera, Asbjørn Eide, Nicole Foster, Mette Hartlev, Caoimhin MacMaolain, Katharina O'Cathaoir, Sarah Roache).
    • In 2014-2016, Amandine Garde served on the Ad Hoc Expert Group on Science and Evidence, which assisted the WHO Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity in the preparation of its Final Report. This appointment resulted from the years of expertise which she had developed on the relationship between law and obesity prevention – her monograph EU Law and Obesity Prevention (Kluwer Law International, 2010) being the first to consider obesity a legal issue.
    • Amandine Garde, with Anne-Christine Fornage (University of Lausanne) and Marine Friant-Perrot (University of Nantes) organised a two-day conference in January 2018 in Lausanne, Switzerland on: 'Nutrition information as a tool of consumer empowerment and public health protection?'. From an interdisciplinary viewpoint, the conference explored the provision of nutrition information to consumers, particularly through food labelling, as a strategy to promote healthier diets by encouraging consumers to make healthier food choices through the provision of food information.
    • Amandine Garde regularly contributes to policy debates on healthy child nutrition at EU level, highlighting the insufficiency of the EU's response to the growing burden of chronic NCDs in Europe. In particular, she has acted as an expert advisor during the Maltese and the Bulgarian Presidencies; and regularly provides training and masterclasses on the role that the EU has played in the prevention of NCDs, the role it could play should there be increased political will to use EU powers in this policy area, and how EU law and national laws interact with each other. For more information, see our EU page
    • For more specific information on our work on the regulation of food marketing as part of childhood obesity strategies, see Regulating food and alcohol marketing to children.
    Publications focusing specifically on obesity prevention
    • A Garde, O De Schutter and J Curtis (eds), Ending Childhood Obesity: A Challenge at the Crossroads of International Human Rights and Economic Law (Elgar 2019, forthcoming)
    • O De Schutter, A Garde and J curtis, "Introduction" in A Garde, O De Schutter and J Curtis (eds), Ending Childhood Obesity: A Challenge at the Crossroads of International Human Rights and Economic Law (Elgar 2019, forthcoming)
    • M fraint-Perrot and N Gokani, "Human Rights, Childhood Obesity and Health Inequalities" in A Garde, O De Schutter and J Curtis (eds), Ending Childhood Obsesity: A Challenge at the Crossroads of International Human Rights and Economic Law (Elgar 2019, forthcoming)
    • G Messenger, "Sugar as Commodity or Health Risk: the Unmaking or Remaking of International Trade Law?" in A Garde, O De Schutter and J Curtis (eds), Ending Childhood Obesity: a Challenge at the Crossraods of International Human Rights and Economic Law (Elgar 2019, forthcoming)
    • M Sattorova, "Investment Protection Agreements, Regulatory Chill and National Measures on Childhod Obesity Prevention" in A Garde, O De Schutter and J Curtis (eds), Ending Childhood Obesity: a Challenge at the Crossraods of International Human Rights and Economic Law (Elgar 2019, forthcoming)
    • J curtis, "Corporate Accountability in Home State Courts and the Global Fight against Childhod Obesity" in A Garde, O De Schutter and J Curtis (eds), Ending Childhood Obesity: a Challenge at the Crossraods of International Human Rights and Economic Law (Elgar 2019, forthcoming)
    • A Garde, J Curtis and O De Schutter, "Conclusion" in A Garde, O De Schutter and J Curtis (eds), Ending Childhood Obesity: a Challenge at the Crossraods of International Human Rights and Economic Law (Elgar 2019, forthcoming)
    • A Garde, "The "Obesity Risk": for an Effective Use of Law to Prevent Non-Communicable Diseases" (2017) 8 (1) European Journal of Risk Regulation 77
    • K Ward and A Garde responded on behalf of the Law & NCD Unit to HMRC consultation on the Soft Drinks Industry Levy
    • A Garde and K Ward, The Liverpool View: Towards a soft drink sugar tax?, 11 October 2016
    • O Bartlett, A Garde and K Ward, Fizzy drinks tax alone won't solve childhod obesity nightmare, The Conversation, 21 March 2016
    • A Alemanno and A Garde (eds), Regulating Lifestyle Risks: The EU, Alcohol, Tobacco and Unhealthy Diets (Cambridge University Press, 2015)
    • A Garde, "Law, Healthy Diets and Obesity Prevention" in the ECOG Free Obesity eBook (2015)
    • M fraint-Perrot and A Garde, "From BSE to obesity: EFSA's growing role in the EU's nutrition policy" in A Alemannno and S Gabbi, Foundations of EU Food Law and Policy: Ten Years of the European Food Safety Authority (Routledge, 2014)
    • A Garde, "Malnutrition Par Excès / Overnutrition" tri-lingual entry (English, French and Spanish) for the Lascaut-Nantes University Food and Agricultural Law Dictionary (Bruylant, 2013)
    • A Garde, EU Law and Obesity Prevention (Kluwer Law International, 2010).