Local newspaper Business Standard reported last week that the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) and the Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) are working together to regulate food and beverage ads in India.
The draft proposal is almost ready and there is a likelihood that it would be issued for industry consultation and feedback over the next few months, according to the news report.
While ASCI and FSSAI officials were not immediately available for comments, a top advertising professional, whose agency adheres to the ASCI and handles some food brands, confirmed the development to FoodNavigator-Asia.com
“My understanding is that that the regulation of food ads has been driven from the FSSAI end. We have received notice that some new guidelines are in the works. They [FSSAI] have been quite belligerent on the issue,” he said.
The FSSAI is the apex body governing all food safety and quality issues in the country since August 5 this year when the Food Safety and Standards Act of 2006 came into effect replacing the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act of 1954.
According to the Business Standard report, the FSSAI had prepared a white paper on food advertising in the country, with its inputs on the subject, which it had sought an ASCI response to.
“We are told that the FSSAI is keen on taking on food ads that make dishonest or unverified claims. I would suppose this is targeted at a lot of the food advertising that goes on about health and wellness claims,” the advertising professional adds.
To date, no government agency has ever regulated food and beverage advertising in India and no major food processor has been penalized on misleading claims on advertising.
According to the advertising professional, this is likely to change drastically, with the FSSAI possibly asking for scientific evidence of advertised claims, “failing which it could levy heavy penalties and bans.”
“I think their major beef is with television advertising which reaches far beyond the cities. The average rural guy is probably not literate to read nutritional information on a pack, but he can see and hear claims made on television,” he says.
The Business Standard report added that the FSSAI is keen that advertising also does not discourage good dietary practices and selection of natural foods, or encourage the excessive consumption of any particular food product.
On its part, the news report said, the ASCI has said that it wants advertisers to be allowed to modify or withdraw ads if found violating the code, and penalized only if they don't agree to the modifying or withdrawing the ad.