In a recent development, the FSSAI has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Advertising Standard Council of India (ASCI) to address cases of misleading advertisement that pertain to the Food and Beverage industry. The ASCI is a self-regulatory organization established in 1985 and has received much appreciation from government bodies for its role in handling all complaints against advertisements which are considered as false, misleading, indecent, illegal or leading to unsafe practices, unfair competition, and consequently in contravention of the ASCI Code for Self-Regulation in Advertising.
The MoU signed between FSSAI and ASCI authorizes the ASCI to not only monitor advertisements but to also process all complaints against misleading advertisements that pertain to the food and beverage segment. ASCI will also report to the FSSAI if there is non-compliance by the advertiser on any ASCI decisions and FSSAI will take action as per the provisions of the FSSAI regulations. This move will strengthen FSSAI’s commitment to tackling the issue of misleading advertisements in the F&B sector.
FSSAI receives complaints in cases of misleading advertisements for foods and beverages through the ‘Grievances Against Misleading Advertisements’ (GAMA) portal that was launched by the Department of Consumer Affairs in 2015. As of now, the FSSAI has received 21 cases of misleading advertisement through this web portal. FSSAI has already disposed of six cases and other cases are in various stages of scrutiny or disposal. With the new understanding, FSSAI can now redirect such cases of misleading advertisements to the ASCI for review under the ASCI codes and guidelines. Besides reviewing such cases under their guidelines the ASCI will also consider whether the misleading advertisements make any unsubstantiated or false claims in contravention of the FSS Act and Regulations.
The FSSAI feel that through this partnership they will be able to bring “transparency and accountability through stakeholder participation.” ASCI on their part are happy to get recognition from the government body as that will boost their efforts to curtail misleading advertisements in the food and beverage sector also as they have been doing in other sectors. Since foods and beverages are consumed on a daily basis they can impact the health of lakhs of consumers. The ASCI say that now they will make it their top priority to curtail and rein in any misleading advertisements in this sector so consumers can be assured that they are consuming what has been advertised and not something that is not present or falsely shown as having enhanced value.
This partnership between the FSSAI and the ASCI will create an advertising environment that will help to streamline advertisements so they are in line with guidelines of both the organizations. Monitoring of advertisements pertaining to the food and beverage sector will increase as both bodies will work towards controlling advertisements that make false claims. Both the organizations will work in tandem to ensure that consumers are not misled because of wrong claims about foods and beverages made through their advertisements.