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Regulations To Curtail Misleading Food Ads


Recently, the Advertisement Monitoring Committee at the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) flagged 32 fresh cases of food business operators (FBOs) making misleading claims and advertisements.


GS II: Government policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Regulations to Combat Misleading Advertisements and Claims
  2. Definition of ‘natural’ and ‘fresh’ for food products
  3. What about ‘pure’ and ‘original’?
  4. What about ‘nutritional claims’?

Regulations to Combat Misleading Advertisements and Claims

Types of Regulations:
  • Varied regulations exist to combat misleading advertisements and claims, some broad and others specific to certain products
  • Example: FSSAI’s Food Safety and Standards (Advertising & Claims) Regulations, 2018 deals specifically with food and related products, while CCPA’s regulations cover goods, products, and services
Advertising Codes:
  • The Cable Television Network Rules, 1994’s Programme and Advertising Codes prohibit advertisements that imply products have “special or miraculous or supernatural property or quality, which is difficult of being proved”
Truthful and Substantiated Claims:
  • The FSSAI seeks truthful, unambiguous, meaningful, and non-misleading advertisements and claims that help consumers comprehend information provided
  • Claims must be scientifically substantiated by validated methods of characterizing or quantifying the ingredient or substance that is the basis for the claim
Prohibited Claims:

Product claims suggesting prevention, alleviation, treatment, or cure of a disease, disorder, or particular psychological condition are prohibited unless specifically permitted under FSS Act, 2006 regulations.

Definition of ‘natural’ and ‘fresh’ for food products

  • A food product can be called ‘natural’ if:
    • It is a single food derived from a recognized natural source
    • It has nothing added to it
    • It has only been processed to make it suitable for human consumption
    • The packaging is done without the use of chemicals and preservatives
  • Composite foods, which are a mixture of plant and processed constituents, cannot be called ‘natural’; instead, they can use the label ‘made from natural ingredients’.
  • ‘Fresh’ can be used for products that have not been processed except for washing, peeling, chilling, trimming, cutting, or irradiation by ionizing radiation not exceeding 1 kGy, or any other processing that keeps the basic characteristics of the food unaltered.
  • Products with additives that increase shelf life should use labels such as ‘freshly frozen’, ‘fresh frozen’, or ‘frozen from fresh’ to indicate that they were quickly frozen while fresh.

What about ‘pure’ and ‘original’?

  • “Pure” is used for single-ingredient foods that have no additives and avoidable contaminants, while unavoidable contaminants are within prescribed controls.
  • “Original” is used for food products made to a formulation with a traceable origin that has remained unchanged over time. It may also describe a unique process that has remained unchanged over time, although the product may be mass-produced.

What about ‘nutritional claims’?

  • Nutritional claims can be about the specific contents of a product or comparisons with another foodstuff.
  • Equivalence claims can be used if they provide the equivalent nutritional value as the reference food.
  • Misleading ads related to nutrition, benefits, and ingredient mix are common.
  • Nutritional claims need to be based on technical data and evidence to substantiate their validity.
  • Additional claims such as the reduction of fatigue or improvement of stamina require adequate literature to support the claim.

-Source: The Hindu


February 2024