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Policies for healthy and sustainable edible oil consumption: a stakeholder analysis for Thailand

  • Bhavani Shankar (a1), Nalitra Thaiprasert (a2), Shabbir Gheewala (a3) and Richard Smith (a4)

Abstract

Objective

Palm oil is a cheap and versatile edible oil in widespread use as a food ingredient that has been linked to negative health and environmental outcomes. The current study aimed to understand the prospects for future health-focused policy development to limit food use of palm oil and promote a greater diversity of oils in Thailand’s food system.

Design

Eighteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with a range of stakeholders. The interviews probed views on the economic, health and environmental dimensions of the issue, the prospects for health-focused policy development and the policy development process. Transcripts were analysed using a health policy analytical framework.

Setting

Thailand.

Subjects

Stakeholders from a range of ministries, regulatory agencies, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and academia.

Results

There are several impediments to the emergence of strong regulation, including the primacy of economic considerations in setting policy, doubt and misperception about health implications and a complex regulatory environment with little space for health-related considerations. At the same time, some sections of the food industry producing food for domestic consumption are substituting palm with other oils on the basis of consumer health perceptions.

Conclusions

Strong regulation to curb the growth of palm oil is unlikely to emerge soon. However, a long-term strategy can be envisaged that relies on greater policy support for other indigenous oils, strategic rebalancing towards the use of palm oil for biofuels and oleochemicals, and harnessing Thailand’s food technology capabilities to promote substitution in food production in favour of oils with healthier fatty acid composition.

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Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

* Corresponding author: Email b.shankar@soas.ac.uk

References

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Keywords

Policies for healthy and sustainable edible oil consumption: a stakeholder analysis for Thailand

  • Bhavani Shankar (a1), Nalitra Thaiprasert (a2), Shabbir Gheewala (a3) and Richard Smith (a4)

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