India’s advertising watchdog partners food safety authority to fight misleading claims in foods & beverages ads

INDIA –  The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) have partnered to bolster the fight against misleading claims in food and beverage (F&B) ads.  

Advertising is seen as misleading if it involves false, misleading, or deceptive information that is likely to cause the average consumer to act in a way they might otherwise not.   

Ads may also be considered misleading if important information that the average consumer needs to make an informed decision is left out.   

Misleading advertising covers claims made directly to consumers by manufacturers, distributors, and retailers, as well as in advertisements, catalogs, websites, etc. 

In India, the Food Safety And Standards (Advertising And Claims) Regulations guide food manufacturers on how to present claims on food advertisements.  

Even with these regulations in place, ASCI notes that there has been a marked increase in the number of complaints against foods and beverages ads during the Covid-19 pandemic. In the last financial year. 

The agency reveals that it processed a total number of 284 complaints in the last financial year compared to 175 in FY 2019- 20. 

To prevent this problem from escalating even further ASCI says it will set up a three-member expert panel to evaluate foods and beverages advertising identified by the ASCI monitoring team. 

These ads will then be forwarded to the FSSAI which will further investigate and prosecute those found in conflict with the law.  

“With this agreement, ASCI will intensify its scrutiny of the F&B sector. We will tap our national advertising monitoring service, which monitors over 900 television channels and publications, and over 3,000 websites,” said ASCI Secretary-General Manisha Kapoor. 

“Besides national brands, we will examine regional and local ones. Our experts, with decades of experience in the F&B sector, will shortlist those ads that require further scrutiny by FSSAI.” 

The new collaboration between ASCI and the FSSAI comes at a time when food and beverage brands in India are intensifying their advertising campaigns. 

A report by media agency Zenith said India will be the fastest-growing market for FMCG brands’ F&B advertising over the next three years with spending rising 14% a year.  

With the rise in digital consumption, it is expected that FMCG brands’ digital ad spends will increase from US$12.3 billion in 2020 to US$14.9 billion in 2023.  

This necessitates the monitoring of the country’s F&B advertising to prevent extensive proliferation of misleading claims that influence consumers into making uninformed decisions. 

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