Food retail: Local, provincial and territorial regulation of healthy and unhealthy food availability in stores

Learn how local, provincial and territorial governments can increase healthy eating by regulating the availability of healthy and unhealthy foods in stores


Inside this healthy eating policy pack

Healthy and unhealthy food availability in stores


Food retail


Healthy and unhealthy food availability in stores 1,2,3,4

  • Ensure that healthy meals, snacks, foods, and drinks are competitively priced compared to other products 3
  • Initiatives to increase the availability of healthier food in stores 2
  • Priority given to the display of healthy foods and drinks in retail outlets 3
  • Engage retailers to improve availability, affordability and acceptability of healthier food products 4

Degree of policy adoption*

Provinces and territories: LOW
31 Canadian municipalities:** LOW

Current action(s) in Canada

Provinces and territories

No provincial or territorial level policies addressing unhealthy food availability in stores were found.

31 Canadian municipalities**

None of the 31 municipalities in the Directory have implemented policies related to requiring retailers to offer healthier foods.

Opportunities for action

Evidence exists in support of store-level interventions to increase healthy foods in retail environments (e.g., point-of-purchase information/ promotion, monetary incentives, product availability, and any combination of the former).5,6,7

Provincial/territorial and municipal action to promote the availability and display of healthy food in retail environments (e.g., incentives/ requirements to stock nutritious foods, healthy check-outs, increase signage/shelf labels for nutritious foods) including stores within publicly-owned institutions remain opportunities for improvement in Canada.8

Local-level business licensing policies could also be amended to require all food retailers to carry a minimum selection of healthy food and meet other basic operating standards.1

* Levels of adoption:  LOW = very few jurisdictions have adopted evidence-informed policy action; MEDIUM = some, but not all jurisdictions have adopted evidence-informed policy action; HIGH = most jurisdictions have adopted evidence-informed policy action.

** Prevention Policies Directory captures information for 31 Canadian municipalities (18 largest municipalities in Canada, and at least 1-2 largest municipalities in all other provinces/territories).


1 Vanderlee L, Goorang S, Karbasy K, Schermel A, L’Abbe M. Creating healthier food environments in Canada: Current policies and priority actions – Summary report. Toronto; University of Toronto, 2017.

2 World Cancer Research Fund International NOURISHING Framework.

3 World Cancer Research Fund International Policy Recommendations (2009).

4 World Health Organization Non-communicable Disease Action Plan Policy Options (2013).

5 Adam A, Jensen J. (2016). What is the effectiveness of obesity related interventions at retail grocery stores and supermarkets? – a systematic review. BMC Public Health 16:1247.

6 Wright A, Smith KE, Hellowell M. Policy lessons from health taxes: A systematic review of empirical studies. BMC Public Health 2017; 17(1): 583.

7 Gittelsohn J, Rowan M, Gadhoke P. (2012). Interventions in small food stores to change the food environment, improve diet, and reduce risk of chronic disease.  Preventing Chronic Disease, 9:110015.