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Scientific evidence for advertised claims will be mandatory in India

By Ankush Chibber , 10-May-2012

India is a month off issuing new regulations which will clamp down on misleading food advertisements and labelling, bringing an end to unsubstantiated claims on food products.

The new regulations, which will be issued by the Food Standards and Safety Authority of India (FSSAI), will make it mandatory for food manufacturers to display scientific evidence of advertised claims on packaging.

This would especially restrict deceptive food product advertisements that claim to help in weight-loss or weight-gain, B Sesikeran, director of the National Institute of Nutrition and Chairman of Scientific panel on Food Labelling said.

Sesikeran was talking to reporters on the sidelines of ‘Technology as Driver of Growth: Ensuring Farm Productivity’ a panel discussion organised by IndoAsiancommodities.com in Hyderabad.

The FSSAI panel recommendations will be notified in a month's time, he said, and after that public opinion will be saught before amending the existing Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011.

“We are going to regulate advertisements,” he said, and so companies will be unable to make a health claim unless adequate and valid scientific data backs it up.

“New food labelling regulations will cover a lot of things, such as if a health drink claims that children will grow taller with the drink, they will have produce evidence to prove their claim,” Sesikeran remarked.

Misleading troubles

India has been debating misleading food packaging and advertisement since late last year when the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) and FSSAI began working together to regulate food and beverage adverts across India.

The two agencies worked together to prepare a draft proposal to regulate such advertisements. But before this no government agency had ever regulated food and beverage advertising in the country and there have been no major food processor penalised for misleading claims either.

The drive to regulate such advertisements received further impetus in April when KV Thomas, Food and Consumer Affairs Minister, said that the central government is considering setting up an “inter­ministerial group that can suggest suitable measures to curb misleading advertisements.”

Thomas also went after advertisements for liquor, pan masala and food products he dubbed as 'harmful' to the public, which he said continue to find a place on television channels despite the ban imposed by the government.

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