Consumers are exposed to powerful and prevalent food marketing in their food environment. Such marketing is predominantly of foods and non-alcoholic beverages that undermine healthy diets and negatively shapes food preferences and values. To address this challenge, and to support Member States in implementing policy measures, as recommended by the Framework for Action from the 2014 Second International Conference on Nutrition, the World Health Organization (WHO) is in the process of developing evidence-informed policy guidelines on the food environment, including on policies to protect children from the harmful impact of food marketing.
This review on contextual factors to be considered in the implementation of policies to restrict food marketing was prepared as part of the required process for WHO guideline development. When developing a WHO guideline and its recommendations, explicit consideration must be given to decision criteria (i.e. contextual factors) when moving from the evidence on the impact of interventions to recommendations. The factors considered in this review are values, resource implications, equity and human rights, feasibility and acceptability by stakeholder, as well as socio-cultural and environmental acceptability. A total of 244 publications were included in the review, the majority for acceptability (n = 118), resource implications (n = 59) and values (n = 58). Studies found policies to be cost-effective over the long term. Due to the variability in acceptability by stakeholder and in feasibility depending on policy design, the results underline the importance of considering the local context, including the regulatory and political environment, when implementing policies to protect children from the harmful impact of food marketing. Overall, effective implementation of such policies could contribute to achievement of the right to health, a core WHO value.