The apex food regulator took action after receiving complaints from the GAMA web portal, launched by the department of consumer affairs in 2015.
Authorities have cracked down on food companies that issue advertisements screaming their products are “the best” or “miracle cures” without appropriate disclaimers.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority (FSSAI) under the Union health ministry recently issued notices to at least four such firms that finally either had to withdraw their commercials or modify them.
Jivo Wellness Pvt Ltd was pulled up for its canola oil, KC Food Products for its digestive biscuits, Phytotech Extracts Pvt Ltd for its supplement Proteqt that helps manage hangovers and Chemical Resources in Maharashtra for the Furocycst pills meant for ovarian cysts.
Analysts say false advertising is notoriously common in India and easy to get away with. According to reports last month, FSSAI and the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) may soon join forces to clamp down on misleading food and beverage commercials.
“Jivo Wellness Pvt Ltd was advertising that canola can prevent diabetes and heart diseases with a private hospital putting its seal. KC Foods from Jammu and Kashmir was advertising that digestive biscuit is the best in the market due to highest content of whole wheat flour,” said Pawan Kumar Agarwal, CEO of FSSAI.
“After the FSSAI took cognisance, the companies had to withdraw these misleading advertisements.
Similarly, Chemical Resources was directed to modify its advertisements for Furocyst as it was making claims that the drug contains USpatented ingredients, has no side-effects and that around 94 per cent of patients reported positive results after usage.”
The apex food regulator of the country took action after receiving complaints from the GAMA (Grievances against Misleading Advertisements) web portal, which was launched by the department of consumer affairs last year.
ASCI processes these complaints and moves them to respective authorities if companies fail to comply with its directions. The council announced a WhatsApp connection in March to reach the public. Sources say the consumer contact has nearly doubled since this new medium was opened up to register complaints.
WhatsApp is now contributing to more than 12 per cent of the total advertisements complained against and deliberated upon by the Consumer Complaints Council.
“With increased awareness levels, it has also had an incremental effect on the overall number of complaints received directly by other means such as mobile app and website,” said ASCI chairman Benoy Roychowdhury.
The council’s WhatsApp number has seen complaints come in against advertisements appearing in a wide range of sectors such as FMCG, healthcare, telecom, ecommerce, travel, durables, automotive, food and beverages and education.
The ASCI code is recognised by the information and broadcasting ministry.
Complaints came in from across India, including areas such as the West Jaintia Hills, Bareilly, Varanasi, Vadodara, Ludhiana and Chennai. Criticisms poured in for advertisements across media, including websites, radio, SMS, emailers, promotional materials, product packaging and hoardings.
The FSSAI recently asked its central licensing authority to send a show-cause notice to yoga guru Ramdev’s Patanjali group over complaints about misleading advertisements of mustard oil.