Health claims under scrutiny in India

19 June 2009

NEW DELHI: Advertisers in India making claims about the purported health benefits of food and beverage brands in marketing campaigns will soon have to provide supporting evidence to the country's government proving these assertions, or else withdraw their ads.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India is developing legislation that will require brand owners to show evidence supporting the health-related statements made in their communications.

P I Suvrathan, chairman of the FSSAI, said the organisation is "laying down a protocol that anybody making any claim in its advertisements will have to back it up with science and study."

"There are so many ads on TV and other media related to children, ads of products such as salt, sugar and trans-fats which have a direct impact on health of people, that go unregulated," he added.

"Many companies come out with exaggerated claims. For example if you eat one brand of salt, your bones will become very strong, or some other brand of oil, you will never have heart problems."

While the Indian ad industry is self-regulated, under the new rules companies will be required to modify or scrap ads found to be breaking these rules.

The organisation has entered discussions with the Advertising Standards Council of India and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, as well as advertising agencies and academics, about the plan.

In 2008, Heinz and GlaxoSmithKline began a legal dispute after the two companies both ran ads in the country claiming their respective Complan and Horlicks brands had the highest nutritional value.

Data sourced from Livemint; additional content by WARC staff