Objective To assess current performance and identify opportunities and reforms necessary for positioning a food standards programme to help protect public health against dietary risk factors.Design A case study design in which a food standards programme's public health protection performance was analysed against an adapted Donabedian model for assessing health-care quality. The criteria were the food standards programme's structure (governance arrangements and membership of its decision-making committees), process (decision-making tools, public engagement and transparency) and food standards outcomes, which provided the information base on which performance quality was inferred.Setting The Australia and New Zealand food standards programme.Participants The structure, process and outcomes of the Programme.Results The Programme's structure and processes produce food standards outcomes that perform well in protecting public health from risks associated with nutrient intake excess or inadequacy. The Programme performs less well in protecting public health from the proliferation and marketing of 'discretionary' foods that can exacerbate dietary risks. Opportunities to set food standards to help protect public health against dietary risks are identified.Conclusions The structures and decision-making processes used in food standards programmes need to be reformed so they are fit for purpose for helping combat dietary risks caused by dietary excess and imbalances. Priorities include reforming the risk analysis framework, including the nutrient profiling scoring criterion, by extending their nutrition science orientation from a nutrient (reductionist) paradigm to be more inclusive of a food/diet (holistic) paradigm.