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Healthy food environment

Law Centre for Health and Life

Overweight and obesity cause major health problems worldwide. Obesity is associated with many diseases and conditions such as diabetes and cancer, impacts on mental health and has social and economic consequences. In 2019, 50.1% of Dutch people aged 18 and older were overweight or obese. In cities this problem can be most acute, especially with regard to children. 

The layout of the physical environment influences the health of residents. Unhealthy food is a growing problem nationwide. The physical environment of the average Dutch person stimulates to consume unhealthy food and to exercise little. This is also referred to as the "obesogenic environment". This obesogenic environment is named as an important cause of the nationwide increase in overweight and obesity.

A healthy food environment makes an important contribution to the prevention and reduction of overweight and obesity and can thus significantly improve individual health. However, there are many questions about what legal instruments that cities/municipalities have at their disposal to make the food environment healthier, in view of possible limitations of national and international laws and regulations (ex. spatial planning legislation). This research line aims to provide a better insight into the legal options for ensuring a healthy food environment in urban environments. We take a global-to-local approach and work in close connection with the Amsterdam public health department and those of Den Haag, Ede, Utrecht and Rotterdam on finding legal solutions where the rubber meets the road.


  • City of Amsterdam
  • NWA-NWO funding

Affiliated researchers

Prof. dr. mr. A. (Anniek) de Ruijter

Faculty of Law


Mr. H.B. (Hannah) van Kolfschooten LLM

Faculty of Law