After educational institutes and auto companies, it is now the turn of food and beverage firms to watch their step while promoting their brands. The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) and the Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) are working together on proposing guidelines to regulate the advertising of food & beverages in the country.
The guidelines are likely to see the light of day soon, say people privy to the development. ASCI and FSSAI officials were not immediately available for comments.
However, people familiar with the matter say FSSAI has already sought the response of ASCI on a white paper it had prepared on the subject. The document carries FSSAIs inputs on the subject, including the draft guidelines or the code that it hopes to put in place.
Among other issues, the code, as proposed by FSSAI, seeks to clamp down on misleading ads or claims made by food & beverage advertisers. This, it proposes to put into effect by insisting advertisers back the claims made about ingredients or underlying health benefits with scientific evidence, whenever required.
The body has also proposed that good dietary practices and the selection of natural foods should not be discouraged by advertisers in their ads. It has also sought discouraging excessive consumption of any particular food, insisting health-related benefits or comparisons made to consumers, especially rural consumers, made in clear terms.
ASCI has said advertisers should be allowed to modify or withdraw ads once they are found violating the code. Advertisers should be penalised only if they dont agree to the modifications or withdrawing the ad.
The matter, say those familiar with the development, is likely to be discussed at an ASCI-convened conference in Delhi on November 17. The conference would seek to build consensus on various issues, including indecency in advertising, honesty and truth in ads other than those for food & beverages.
Participants at the conference would include members from the information & broadcasting ministry, the department of consumer affairs and the FSSAI, besides activists, legislators and advertising industry professionals.