Public Health Law


“All significant developments in public health involve and require the use of law. This is a rule to which there is no exception.”  -The Hyderabad Statement

Law serves a central role in public health nutrition, as it has in all aspects of civilized society. Government has the legal authority and the responsibility to protect peoples’ health. The legal system will have an essential role in transforming the food system. Only new public policy will reduce diet-related illness like type 2 diabetes, and reverse childhood obesity.

The IRN is working on creating an Expert Speakers Bureau to assist with educating plaintiffs that may be considering legal action involving the food industry, including: individuals, class actions, states’ Attorneys Generals, insurance companies and other state and local government actors. These cases will need experts to evaluate, consult and testify. The Bureau will be supported by a Medical Advisory Committee that evaluates and analyzes the best medical and scientific evidence on toxic food components and substances of abuse in the food supply.

A key goal of our effort will be to ensure that recoveries from food industry legal actions are directed back toward personal and public health. 

There are programs emerging around the U.S. focusing on the intersection between food, health, and law.

Here are some examples:
UC Hastings MSL for Health and Science Professionals
Public Justice (Food Safety and Health)
Resnick Food Policy Program at UCLA

We welcome additions to this list.

Essential Reading List:

Profits and pandemics: prevention of harmful effects of tobacco, alcohol, and ultra-processed food and drink industries
Prof Rob Moodie, MBBS, David Stuckler, PhD, Carlos Monteiro, PhD, Nick Sheron, Bruce Neal, PhD, Thaksaphon Thamarangsi, PhD, Paul Lincoln, BSc, 
Sally Casswell, PhD, on behalf of The Lancet NCD Action Group

In industrial epidemics, the vectors of spread are not biological agents, but transnational corporations. Unlike infectious disease epidemics, however, these corporate disease vectors implement sophisticated campaigns to undermine public health interventions. To minimize the harmful effects of unhealthy commodity industries on NCD prevention, we call for a substantially scaled up response from governments, public health organizations, and civil society to regulate the harmful activities of these industries.

Lethal But Legal: Corporations, Consumption, and Protecting Public Health by Nicholas Freudenberg  

"Lethal But Legal is a superb, magnificently written, courageous, and thoroughly compelling exposé of how corporations selling cigarettes, guns, cars, drugs, booze, and food and beverages enrich themselves at the expense of public health.  Even more important, Freudenberg tells us how we can organize to counter corporate power and achieve a healthier and more sustainable environment.  This book should be required reading for anyone who cares about promoting health, protecting democratic institutions, and achieving a more equitable and just society." - Marion Nestle

Appetite for Profit: How the food industry undermines our health and how to fight back by Michele Simon

The United States is currently embroiled in a national debate over the growing public health crisis caused by poor diet. People are starting to ask who is to blame and how can we fix the problem, especially among children. Major food companies are responding with a massive public relations campaign. These companies, including McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Kraft, and General Mills, are increasingly on the defensive. In response, they pretend to sell healthier food and otherwise position themselves as "part of the solution." Yet they continue to lobby against commonsense nutrition policies. Appetite for Profit exposes this hypocrisy and explains how to fight back by offering reliable resources.

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