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What is the public appetite for healthy eating policies? Evidence from a cross-European survey

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 August 2014

Mario Mazzocchi*
Associate Professor, Department of Statistical Sciences, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy
Silvia Cagnone
Assistant Professor, Department of Statistical Sciences, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy
Tino Bech-Larsen
Associate Professor, Department of Business Administration, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
Barbara Niedźwiedzka
Head of Department, Institute of Public Health, Jagiellonian University Medical College, Krakow, Poland
Anna Saba
Senior Researcher, Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca per gli Alimenti e la Nutrizione, Rome, Italy
Bhavani Shankar
Professor, Leverhulme Centre for Integrative Research on Agriculture and Health and School of Oriental and African Studies, London, UK
Wim Verbeke
Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
W Bruce Traill
Professor, Department of Food Economics and Marketing, University of Reading, Reading, UK
*Correspondence to: Mario Mazzocchi, Associate Professor, Department of Statistical Sciences, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy, Via Belle Arti 41, 40124 Bologna, Italy. Email:


World Health Organization estimates that obesity accounts for 2–8% of health care costs in different parts of Europe, and highlights a key role for national policymaking in curbing the epidemic. A variety of healthy-eating policy instruments are available, ranging from more paternalistic policies to those less intrusive. Our aim is to measure and explain the level of public support for different types of healthy eating policy in Europe, based on data from a probabilistic sample of 3003 respondents in five European countries. We find that the main drivers of policy support are attitudinal factors, especially attribution of obesity to excessive availability of unhealthy foods, while socio-demographic characteristics and political preferences have little explanatory power. A high level of support for healthy eating policy does not translate into acceptance of higher taxes to fund them, however.

© Cambridge University Press 2014 

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