Overcoming the dependent variable problem in studying food policy

J.J.L. Candel*, Carsten Daugbjerg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The development of a comparative food policy research agenda has been hampered by the dependent variable problem of how to delineate the policy field. Through a concise literature review, we show that the existing literature has conceptualised food policy as policy outputs, institutional orders, or discursive constructs. Focusing on the policy outputs, we define food policy as a set of policy outputs adopted to address one or more food system activities (production, processing and packaging, distribution and retailing, and consumption) with the explicit aim of affecting food system outcomes in a desired direction. The paper develops a heuristic encompassing four dimensions along which food policy outputs may differ: (i) policy scope, (ii) targeting of policy efforts, (iii) type of policy instruments applied and how these are calibrated, and (iv) integration of the various components of the policy complex. These four dimensions can be applied to characterise individual food policies and compare across countries and time. Comparing and tracking the development of food policy along these dimensions would allow for addressing follow-up questions about impacts and what explains policy change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-178
JournalFood Security
Issue number1
Early online date26 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


  • Food policy
  • Food systems
  • Comparative research
  • Dependent variable problem
  • Public policy


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