The Union Women and Child Development Minry has suggested that junk food ads should not be aired during children’s programmes, The Indian Express has learnt.
The idea was brought up during a recent meeting where draft guidelines on “misleading advertisements” were discussed. The meeting, chaired Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh, was attended officials from several minries including Home Affairs, Health, Information Broadcasting and Consumer Affairs.
During the meeting, held February 17, a WCD Minry official suggested that advertisements promoting junk foods should not be permitted during children’s programs, it is learnt.
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The official also observed that ads should not “promote” carbonated beverages which show celebrities performing “dangerous stunts.” The WCD minry official also suggested that advertisements should not endorse health supplements like DHA omega 3 fatty acid which claims to support brain development, it is learnt.
The official observed that the ads should not promote those “unhealthy” junk foods which leads to “obesity” in children. He cited figures from National Family Health Surveys to show the rising obesity in children in the country.Officials at the meeting discussed the draft of the Central Consumer Protection Authority (Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Necessary Due Diligence for Endorsement of Advertisements) Guidelines, 2021, which have provisions related to “advertisements targeted at children”.
The Indian Express has learnt that after inter-minerial consultations, the Consumer Affairs Department is expected to release these guidelines, being prepared under the Consumer Protection Act of 2019, the end of this month.
The first draft of these guidelines was released the Department of Consumer Affairs in 2020 and did not have specific provisions related to junk food advertisements.
In this draft, the government had intended to prohibit “behaviour” in ads that could be dangerous for children or affect their mental health, among several other steps.
The draft guidelines also clearly stated that advertisements that are of interest to children shall not “take advantage of children’s inexperience, credulity or sense of loyalty, or exaggerate the features of a good or service in a way that could lead to children having unrealic expectations of such good or service.”
The draft guidelines also said that advertisements targeted at children shall not “imply that children are likely to be ridiculed, inferior to others, less popular, disloyal, if they do not purchase or make use of a good or service.” They should also not “condone or encourage bullying” and “include a direct exhortation to children to purchase a good or service or to persuade their parents, guardians or other persons to purchase a good or service for them, ” it said. It also proposed a prohibition on featuring children in advertisements promoting “tobacco or alcohol-based products.”
The Consumer Protection Act, 2019, defines, a “misleading advertisement” in relation to any product or service, as “an advertisement, which—(i) falsely describes such product or service; or (ii) gives a false guarantee to, or is likely to mislead the consumers as to the nature, substance, quantity or quality of such product or service; or (iii) conveys an express or implied representation which, if made the manufacturer or seller or service provider thereof, would constitute an unfair trade practice; or (iv) deliberately conceals important information.”
Under Section 10 of the Consumer Protection Act, the Central Consumer Protection Authority is empowered to “regulate” matters relating to violation of rights of consumers, unfair trade practices and false or misleading advertisements which are prejudicial to the interests of public and consumers. The act also provides for a penalty for misleading advertisements which may extend to Rs 10 lakh and prohibition of endorsers of misleading advertisements from making endorsement in respect of any product or service for a period which may extend to three years.