There is an invigorated national interest in nutrition security, with emphasis on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) playing a key role.
To support healthy food purchasing, several strategies have emerged to modify the food retail environment. However, the legal feasibility of several such policy options has not been established.
Research was conducted using Lexis+ to evaluate statutes, regulations, and case law to determine the legal feasibility of requiring retail-based SNAP signage and nutrition disclosures, healthy endcaps and checkout aisles, and tying advertising restrictions to the licensing of SNAP retailers.
US in-store and online food retail retailers.
Main Outcome Measure:
Requiring retailers that designate certain foods or locations as SNAP-eligible to consistently do so in all SNAP-eligible pages/locations is likely feasible. If properly drafted to focus on the nutritional quality of food, healthy checkout and endcap restrictions are legally feasible. It is of unclear legal feasibility to require retailers (especially in-store) to disclose nutrition-related labeling, shelf tags, or nonfactual symbols indicating the relative healthfulness of products. Restricting or banning advertising is not legally feasible even if the government ties the restrictions to retail licensing requirements.
Entities seeking to support healthy food retail should not seek to restrict advertising or compel retailers to convey messages against their interests. The government can license retailers and require them to abide by laws and other requirements that do not violate their constitutional rights. The government can also use its own speech through public service announcements, billboards, and transit advertising to encourage healthy food consumption for all shoppers including those who use SNAP. Additional research is warranted into online retail practices to evaluate variations in online checkout pages and to determine whether online retailers treat SNAP participants differently from non-SNAP participants.