Dabur, Cargill, ITC, Patanjali Ayurved are among errant advertisers whom ASCI has asked to modify their ads in the recent past
Two of the country’s apex regulators — Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and the AdvertisingStandards Council of India (ASCI) — will join forces to clamp down on misleading food & beverage advertisements, persons in the know have told Business Standard. While the two regulators have worked in the past informally, the arrangement will likely be formalised now.
Confirming the development, FSSAI CEO Pawan Agarwalsaid a few meetings between the two regulators had happened. “We would like to raise our engagement withASCI and we are looking at ways in which we can do it. The details are being worked out,” Agarwal said in response to a specific query on the subject.
The current development comes after a broader arrangement between the Department of Consumer Affairsand ASCI was worked out last year, which allowed the latter to act against misleading ads on a complaints website. This website allows consumers to complain about any advertisement appearing in any medium across any category.
In the case of the FSSAI, any complaint received by the food safety regulator will see the ASCI stepping in and writing to the advertiser concerned to modify the ad based on its prescribed guidelines, persons in the know said.
In the event the advertiser does not comply with ASCI’s directions, the FSSAI will step in to take action. While ASCI officials were not immediately available for their comments, this approach, say persons in the know, is expected to act as a strong deterrent against errant advertisers in the food & beverage space, where misleading claims have been steadily growing.
Between January and March 2016, food & beverages figured among the key categories, where complaints were upheld by ASCI’s Consumer Complaints Council, the central unit that processes complaints received against advertisers and brands. The regulator is yet to release the list of complaints upheld for the month of April 2016.
Among the companies that ASCI had written to modify ads in March — the last available month — are ITC for its Aashirvaad Multi-grain Atta; Patanjali Ayurved for its Kachi Ghani Mustard Oil; andGemini Edibles & Fats for its Freedom Rice Bran Oil. In January and February 2016, the list of errant advertisers included Dabur, Cargill, Pan Parag, Coca-Cola, Perfetti Van Melle, and Ruchi Soya.
Besides big advertisers, the list of errant companies against whom complaints were upheld by ASCI between January and March this year also included small and regional brands, which makes the task even more challenging for regulators, say experts, since regional and local players abound in food. The move by the two regulators to work together is a welcome one, they say.