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Policy framing, design and feedback can increase public support for costly food waste regulation


Stricter regulation of food waste reduction is widely presumed to increase food prices, which could render its implementation politically unfeasible. Here we empirically tested whether specific policy framing, design and feedback could help ensure public support despite potential food price increases. We used survey experiments with 3,329 citizens from a high-income country, Switzerland. A combined framing and conjoint experiment shows that messages emphasizing national or international social norms in favour of reducing food waste (policy framing) can increase public support for more ambitious reduction targets. Also, most citizens support food waste regulation even if this leads to substantial increases in food prices, but only if such policies set stringent reduction targets and are transparently monitored (policy design). Finally, a vignette experiment reveals that voluntary industry initiatives do not crowd out individuals’ support for stricter governmental regulation, but potentially crowd in support if industry initiatives are unambitious (policy feedback).

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Fig. 1: Combined policy framing and policy design (conjoint) experiment (n = 1,231).
Fig. 2: Average marginal component effects of policy design attribute values on citizens’ support for differently designed policy proposals to reduce food waste.
Fig. 3: Average marginal component effects of policy design attribute values on citizens’ support for differently designed policy proposals to reduce food waste by combined social norm frames.
Fig. 4: Policy feedback (vignette) experiment (n = 1,897).
Fig. 5: Marginal means for citizens’ preference for government food waste regulation based on average marginal component effects of vignette treatments.

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Data availability

The data sets generated during and/or analysed during the current study and relevant study documentation are available for scientific use after registration at

Code availability

Statistical code used to analyse the data sets during the current study are available in the Harvard Dataverse public repository at


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We thank F. Quoss for her valuable support. We thank I. Stadelmann-Steffen, G. Brückmann, D. Kolcava, participants at the Swiss Political Science Association Annual Conference 2021, and participants in research seminars at ETH Zurich and LMU Munich who provided valuable feedback on earlier drafts of this paper. We thank R. Buchs, J. Bruker, C. Waldner and N. Radowsky for excellent research assistance. The Swiss Federal Ministry of the Environment provided financial support for fielding the survey.

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Authors and Affiliations



L.R and L.F. contributed equally to this study. T.B. acquired the grant funding for data collection. L.F., L.R. and T.B. contributed equally to developing the study concept and designing the survey embedded experiment. L.R. had the lead in gathering the data. L.F. had the lead in developing the theoretical argument. L.R. had the lead in data analysis. L.R and L.F. had the joint lead in writing the paper.

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Correspondence to Lukas Rudolph.

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Nature Food thanks Manuel Fischer and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Tables 1–9, Figs. 1–8, supporting information for external validity, supporting information for research design, supporting information for policy design and framing experiment, supporting information for policy feedback experiment, supporting robustness test and additional descriptive evidence

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Fesenfeld, L., Rudolph, L. & Bernauer, T. Policy framing, design and feedback can increase public support for costly food waste regulation. Nat Food 3, 227–235 (2022).

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