Britannia’s Nutrichoice claim of providing “diabetic-friendly” biscuits, Horlicks’ assertion of making kids “taller, stronger and sharper”, Rajdhani Besan’s “no cholesterol and low glycaemic index” claims, Kent RO Systems’ “duniya ka sabse shudh paani” and many such other “exaggerated” ads now find themselves in the firing line.
The country’s top food watchdog is ready to crack the whip at all those food and health supplement manufacturers who have been exaggerating claims about their products through advertisements and “consequently cheating consumers”.
The move follows the recently notified new FSS Act, which empowers the Food Safety & Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) to impose penalty of Rs 10 lakh on such manufacturers who give misleading ads. The Act also lays down guidelines for food manufacturers to follow.
“Our committee has already zeroed in on a set of companies including top brands of packaged foods. Top in the list are firms like Kellogg’s, Britannia, Rajdhani Besan, Horlicks, Kent RO Systems and Complan which will be among the first to get notices to reply on what basis they have been making such tall claims for their particular food products,” FSSAI director (media and administration) Asim Choudhary told The Pioneer.
He said the authority in the last two months had been intensively scanning all the advertisements in main newspapers as well electronic channels. “The firms cannot take people for a ride with misleading advertisements. They need to have scientific evidence before making claims about the health benefits and the products being a substitute for fresh fruits, vegetables or meals,” Choudhary added.
The move aims to restrict them from adopting such marketing tactics “which are enough to influence the consumers at the cost of their health as is being done in the developed countries”.
For instance, in 2008, the UK’s Advertising Standards Agency had upheld complaints against two ‘misleading and inaccurate’ adverts for Nestle’s Maggi noodles and GlaxoSmithKline’s Horlicks which made unsubstantiated health claims.
FSSAI CEO VN Gaur said the authority is working on rules to regulate advertisements by food companies which are misleading or false with respect to nutrition claims. “We are also seeking legal view in the matter (on issuing notices to the erring firms),” he added.
According to FSSAI guidelines, companies are not allowed to put advertising and communication of the food and beverages in a misleading or deceptive manner. Also, the advertisements should not encourage excessive consumption or inappropriately large portions of any particular food and not exploit consumers’ lack of experience or knowledge.
The code also points out that the advertisements should not undermine the role of parental care and guidance when children make food choices.
Though there is the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) which makes necessary request to withdraw such ads, it has remained a toothless body in ensuring implementation of the rules.
Source: The Pioneer