NEW DELHI: Food and beverage companies in India will be subject to a new set of regulations from the start of next year, as the country's government aims to tighten the rules regarding the health claims made by marketers in the country.

It has been predicted that the FMCG category will be one of the main drivers of adspend growth in India in the future, while sector sales are also expected to more than double by 2014.

Currently, the Advertising Standards Council of India monitors commercial communications practice in the domestic market, but adherence to its Code of Conduct is entirely voluntary at present.

However, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare is now in the process of finalising the Food Safety & Standards Act, which will come into force in 2010.

Its provisions include placing ads which encourage unhealthy lifestyles, as well as those for products which contain high amounts of sugar, fat or salt, under heightened scrutiny.

Executions which imply that certain brands can offer benefits such as increased intelligence or physical growth will also have to demonstrate the scientific evidence that support these statements.

Furthermore, celebrity endorsements, which are a very widely-utilised tool in the Asian nation, will be subject to close inspection.

"Celebrities or prominent people who promote food should recognise their responsibility towards society and not promote food in such a way so as to undermine a healthy diet," the new guidelines state.

Advertising will be defined as "any audio or visual publicity through all media including the internet, and includes any notice, circular, label, wrapper, invoice or other documents" when the protocol comes into effect.

Companies found to be in contravention of these revised policies could be investigated by the Food Safety and Standards Authority, and possibly then face a fine.

Piyush Pandey, executive chairman and creative director, South Asia, of Ogilvy & Mather, said "most of the brands that are with us, in any case, follow stringent advertising guidelines."

The agency's clients in India include Coca-Cola, the soft drinks giant, and Cadbury, the UK-based confectionary company.

Data sourced from Economic Times; additional content by Warc staff