Institutional ambiguity and ontological politics in integrating sustainability into finnish dietary guidelines

Minna Santaoja, Mikko Jauho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Dietary guidelines are a key policy instrument in guiding the way people eat in many countries. Traditionally, the guidelines focus on the public health aspects of diets. During the last decade, sustainability has increasingly been incorporated into dietary guidelines, emphasizing that sustainable diet benefits both health and the environment. This article analyses the integration of sustainability into dietary guidelines in Finland. The analysis is situated within the ontological turn in social theory, understanding food as ontologically multiple. We employ Annemarie Mol's concept of ontonorms in analyzing the Finnish dietary guidelines. Currently, in Finland, there seems to be a situation of institutional ambiguity regarding where and by whom sustainable food policy is being made and what does it constitute. We claim that the ontological multiplicity of food is partly constituted by, and at the same time constitutive of, the institutional ambiguity, and as a result, the guidelines do not yet provide clear guidance for sustainable food practices. As the guidelines fail to coordinate the multiplicity, they increase the normative burden on consumers to make responsible choices. In the latest Finnish guidelines targeted for children, however, steps are taken towards a more inclusive, caring understanding of sustainable dietary guidance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5330
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Dietary guidelines
  • Finland
  • Food policy
  • Institutional ambiguity
  • Ontological politics
  • Ontonorms
  • Plant-based diet
  • Sustainable diet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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