This paper investigates the creation and consequences of private regulation in global food governance. It points to the power to govern and the authority to govern as the two crucial conditions for the emergence and diffusion of private food regulation. More specifically, the paper argues that the power to govern is a function of the structural power of agrifood corporations, particularly retail food corporations in our case. The authority to govern is a function of the perceived legitimacy of retail food corporations as political actors. By linking power and authority to the material and ideational structures existing in the global political economy of food, this paper analyses the processes that serve to create, maintain and reproduce private regulation in food governance. With its analysis, the paper aims to contribute to the theoretical and empirical debates on private authority, private regulation and the challenges for sustainability in the global food system. © 2010 Berkeley Electronic Press. All rights reserved.