Increasing public support for food-industry related, obesity prevention policies: The role of a taste-engineering frame and contextualized values

Selena E. Ortiz, Frederick J. Zimmerman, Gary J. Adler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Background: Support for policies to combat obesity is often undermined by a public sense that obesity is largely a matter of personal responsibility. Industry rhetoric is a major contributor to this perception, as the soda/fast food/big food companies emphasize choice and individual agency in their efforts to neutralize policies that are burdensome. Yet obesity experts recognize that environmental forces play a major role in obesity. We investigate whether exposure to a taste-engineering frame increases support for food and beverage policies that address obesity. A taste-engineering frame details strategies used by the food industry to engineer preferences and increase the over-consumption of processed foods and sugary beverages. We also examine the effects of exposure to two contextualized values that have recently been promoted in expert discourse-consumer knowledge and consumer safety - on public support of policies. Our research shows how causal frames and contextualized values may effectively produce support for new obesity policies. Methods: We use an online survey experiment to test the effects of exposure to a taste-engineering frame (TEF), the value of consumer knowledge (CK), or the value of consumer safety (CS), on level of support for a range of policies. A random sample of adults, age 18 + living in the United States was included in the study (N = 2580). Ordered logistic regression was used to measure the effects of treatment exposure.The primary outcome was level-of-support for four (4) food-industry related, obesity prevention policies (aka food and beverage policies): 1) require food-manufacturers to disclose the amount of additives in food products on food packaging; 2) require food-manufacturers to advertise food products in accordance with their actual nutritional value; 3) prohibit all high-fat, high-sugar food advertising on television programming watched primarily by children; and 4) increase healthy food availability in work sites, schools, and hospitals. Findings: These data suggest that a taste-engineering frame and contextualized values significantly increase public support for many of the food and beverage policies tested. Conclusions: Applying a taste-engineering frame and/or contextualized values to address obesity advances a population-based policy agenda to counteract the effects of food-industry strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)142-153
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - May 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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