Food Marketing Laws and Consumer Protection in India | So Good News


Advertising is promoting a product to the public to attract attention and sales, and it affects the needs of consumers. The regulation of food marketing is necessary to ensure that the marketing methods used are legal, and to clearly explain the details related to the product, thus protecting the interests of consumers. While there was no unified legislation to regulate food advertising, the Consumer Protection Act 2019 (‘CPA 2019’) now provides for rules on advertising that ‘misleads’ consumers about food. The Advertising Standards Council of India (‘ASCI’), along with other media authorities, regulates advertising standards by issuing guidelines. The Food Safety and Standards Authority (‘FSSAI’) is a statutory body that sets food standards, and regulates the preparation and sale of food.

Food Marketing Regulatory Framework:

Advertising refers to audio or visual announcements, representations, through means such as print, electronic, notices, documents and other documents.[1] Misleading advertising violates the consumer’s right to be assured of a variety of products, the right to be protected from dangerous products, and the right to information about the product.[2]. False, deceptive or misleading advertising is prohibited under various laws:

Consumer Protection Act 2019: The emergence of e-commerce along with new unfair and unfair business practices, sales, has put consumers at risk, which led to the introduction of the CPA 2019 Act. Under this Law, misleading advertising in relation to food, may mean advertising that misrepresents the product, or gives a false guarantee as to its quality, quantity, quality (may be likely to mislead consumers), or gives a representation (implied or implied). ) which would be an unfair trade practice if it is made by the manufacturer or seller, or intentionally hides important information about the product.[3] Unfair commercial practices are commercial practices that promote the sale or use of such products based on unfair, fraudulent methods such as: falsely describing products such as value, quantity, standard; having services, services, amenities that they do not have, or offering them at prices that are misleading than what they are sold for.[4] Acceptance of advertising refers to a message, word of mouth, signature etc. in the advertisement, which leads the consumer to believe that it reflects the opinion or experience of the endorser.[5]

Advertising Standards Council of India: ASCI is a voluntary self-regulatory organization founded in 1985, to promote reliable marketing, to ensure the integrity of the representations and statements made by advertising, and to protect the use of advertising to promote things that are considered dangerous to the public or to the public, by documenting the best marketing practices.[6] ASCI has adopted a Code for Self-Regulation in Advertising (‘Code’), which applies to all those involved in the production, production, distribution of advertisements directed to consumers in India or displayed to the general public in India. It states that the advertising of products whose advertising is prohibited/prohibited by law, should not avoid such restrictions by claiming to be advertising for other products (called indirect advertising or placement advertising).[7]

ASCI released guidelines for Celebrities on Advertising in 2017, which set the stage for celebrities to refrain from misleading or deceptive advertising.[8] It has also issued guidelines for Influencer Advertising in Digital Media in 2021 which mandate that all advertising information be disclosed by influencers/influencers while advertising anything (disclosure symbol like ‘collaboration’, ‘ad’, ‘collaboration’) in their group. posts, to be described as commercial sales.[9]

Food Safety & Standards Act, 2006: Under this law, misleading or deceptive advertising through commercial pressure to promote the sale, supply, consumption of food, by falsely representing the quality, quality, quantity, or appearance of the product in relation to its demand, or value. about any food, or giving assurances about its effectiveness without a scientific basis, is prohibited.[10]

Under the Food Safety and Standards (Advertising and Claims) Regulations 2018[11], advertisements related to substitute foods need to be approved by FSSAI, and claims (product representations) made by advertisements related to food must be true and clear, and not mislead consumers about its nature. The claims must be consistent with the information provided on the product’s label, and objections must be valid. Information about the nutrients in food must be given based on scientific evidence, and cannot be made about things that increase the risk of disease. FSSAI can analyze the false claims, order the advertiser to remove the advertisement and correct it.

The Cable Television Networks Rules 1994 prohibiting in particular any advertisements that directly or indirectly promote the production, sale, or consumption of tobacco, tobacco, wine, alcohol, or other intoxicants, because they are harmful to health.[12] However, brands that use their name/logo to sell such prohibited products, are allowed to advertise other permitted products using the same name/logo (eg spot advertising), visible in advertisements for Pan Bahar Pan Masala, Bagpiper Soda, Seagram’s Imperial Blue. CDs, etc.

Regulatory Authority and Regulatory Responsibilities in Food Marketing:

CPA 2019: The Central Consumer Protection Authority has been established to monitor violations of false or misleading advertising, consumer rights and unfair trade practices. The consumer can file a complaint with the Government against any advertisement that provides or describes false information about food or that contains an unfair trade image and so on. Complaints related to violation of consumer rights or unfair practices or false or misleading advertisements (contrary to consumer interests as a class) can be sent in written / electronic form to the Authority/District Collector/Commissioner of the district office.[13] The District Secretary may, on complaints or on matters of authority given to him by the Authority/Commissioner of the district office, investigate the complaints within his jurisdiction and submit his report to the Government/Commissioner of the district office.[14] The authority can prosecute manufacturers and endorsers for misleading advertisements, and impose fines of up to ten lakh rupees.[15] If there is a false advertising practice endorsed by a celebrity, the endorser will be liable if he fails to exercise due diligence to verify that the statements made in the advertisement relating to the advertisement are true.[16]

The value of ASCI: Complaints against false and misleading advertising can be made before the Consumer Complaints Council (‘CCC’), which will investigate and recommend appropriate action in the matter.[17] In 2021, ASCI conducted a complaint investigation against printed advertisements related to Dabur India Limited’s Dabur Chyawanprash, which claims that drinking two cups protects against Covid-19. The CCC decided that it was not proven whether the product would protect against Covid-19, and consumers could be misled and disappointed by the claims, therefore ASCI advised Dabur to make appropriate changes or withdraw the product.[18] To enforce its decision on advertisements that violate the Code, ASCI may notify the Press Council of India and the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, which may result in the advertisement being suspended.

FSS Act 2006: It provides that any person who publishes or is involved in advertising, who falsely lies about any food or may be fraudulent about the nature, products, quality of any food or give a false guarantee, will be punished. up to ten lakh rupees.[19] In 2012, FSSAI initiated a case against Heinz India Pvt Ltd. because of false advertising related to their product Complan, which claims that a person can double their growth after taking the drug, and found it to be in violation of section 24 of the FSS Act.[20] In 2019, the FSSAI issued a notice to two McDonald’s outlets in Delhi against advertisements that “disparaged freshly cooked vegetables to promote their fast food”, citing negligent advertising and the unacceptability of their food as substitutes.[21]

Number of User Protections Under Controls:

Claims made in food advertisements should not be unsubstantiated, which may be harmful to interests, and violate consumer rights. Consumer protection is based on proper claims made in advertising and due diligence by those who accept them. ASCI has partnered with FSSAI to identify advertisements that may be in violation of the Food Safety and Standards Regulations, and FSSAI will investigate them.

ASCI plays an important role in regulating advertising infringement. FSSAI has regulatory powers to investigate complaints related to false advertising, particularly in the food sector. Consumers acting in the public interest can file complaints before the two organizations, demanding that advertisers be held accountable for false food claims. This regulatory system has demonstrated a high level of consumer protection to date. The CPA 2019 has now provided a mechanism to strengthen the monitoring and redressal of complaints related to advertising, by establishing a Central Authority to investigate false advertising of food products. It remains to be seen how these powers will be effectively exercised by the Government in question in this regard.

The author is an Advocate and opinions are personal.

[1] Section 2(1), Consumer Protection Act 2019

[2] Section 2(9), Consumer Protection Act 2019

[3] Section 2(28), Consumer Protection Act 2019

[4] Section 2(47), Consumer Protection Act 2019

[5] Section 2(18), Consumer Protection Act 2019

[10] Section 24, Food Safety and Standards Act 2006

[12] Section 2(viii)(A), Cable Television Networks Rules 1994

[13] Section 17, Consumer Protection Act 2019

[14] Section 16, Consumer Protection Act 2019

[15] Section 21, Consumer Protection Act 2019

[16] Section 21, Consumer Protection Act 2019

[19] Section 53, Food Safety and Standards Act 2006


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