In a Press Release dated 22nd November 2019, the FSSAI expressed deep concern about irresponsible Advertising and Marketing by Food Companies.
It drew attention to the Resolution adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO), asking Member States to take steps to ensure that Marketing and Advertisements of Foods which have high content of saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars or salt are made in such manner as to minimize the effect on children. This is to be achieved by reducing the exposure of children to such Advertisements as well as by reducing the focus on marketing of foods which are high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars or salt.
With a view to enforcing the WHO directives, the FSSAI had promulgated the ‘Food Safety and Standards (Advertising and Claims) Regulations, 2018. These Regulations, which are aimed at cracking down on misleading advertisements and making brand ambassadors accountable, came into effect from July this year.
As per these Regulations, the Advertisements are to be such as to avoid undermining healthy lifestyles and to take special care to ensure that the food products being advertised are not portrayed as being meals in themselves or as meal substitutes. Care also to be taken to see that such Advertisements do not claim to undermine the Products of any other Manufacturer or try to influence consumer behavior in a particular direction. More damaging is the tendency of Food Companies to disparage freshly cooked food and vegetables which are actually healthier. Such Advertisements dissuade children from developing right eating habits and are thus against the National effort in encouraging young children to eat better, grow better and learn better.
A case in point was the recent Advertisement in newspapers by McDonald suggesting that their Products were substitutes for healthy foods by raising the question “Stuck with Ghiya-Tori again? Make the 1+1 Combo you love”. Show-cause Notices have been issued by the FSSAI Offices in New Delhi and Bombay against the respective McDonald Chain Franchises for violating the provisions of the above Regulations.
Violation of these Regulations would attract the penal provisions of Section 53 of the Food Safety and Standards Act (2006) and a fine of up Rupees Ten Lakhs.
In addition to the above, FSSAI has drafted Regulations to ensure safe and wholesome food for School Children. Once promulgated, these Regulations will ensure that foods having high content of fats, salt and sugar are not prepared in school canteens or hostel messes and kitchens and are not allowed to be sold in the vicinity of School Campuses. It has been found that such unhealthy foods contribute greatly to the rising incidences of obesity in children which in turn affect the mental development of children.
As per the findings of WHO, unhealthy diet is a key contributor to the growth of Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which in turn are responsible for 71% of all deaths in the world amounting to 41 million deaths per year. Of these, 15 million deaths are in the age group of 30 to 69 years. Some 85% of such deaths occur among Countries having low and middle income groups. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has set a target to reduce deaths from NCDs by one-third by the year 2030.
With a view to combating rising trends of Diabetes, Singapore has already banned all Advertisements for sugary drinks. Other Foods, considered “less healthy” are required to display nutritional and sugar contents. The “most unhealthy” category foods have been from Advertisements and sales promotions across all media platforms.
Mr. Pawan Agarwal, CEO of FSSAI commented that Food Companies must voluntarily desist from Advertisement campaigns which violate the requirements of Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. He further emphasized that FSSAI was committed to ensure availability of safe and wholesome Food for all throughout the Country and would use all means such as education, awareness building and regulatory enforcement to achieve the goals set by the Eat Right Campaign that is going on throughout India.