Laying rumours to rest, the Union government on Thursday clarified that there was no proposal to ban junk food advertisements on television channels.
According to the Hindu, the government said there is no proposal at present to ban advertisements of junk food on television. However, nine major food business operators have decided not to advertise products containing high fat on children’s channels out of their own volition.
Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Union Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, told the Lok Sabha during Question Hour that bodies like the Food and Beverage Alliance of India (FBIA) have already decided to voluntarily restrict food and beverage advertisements when it comes to children. Rathore said in Parliament that companies, including Hindustan Unilever and Nestle, have agreed to accept the government’s new order, according to reports.
However, the Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Smriti Irani said in a written reply that there were in fact no such proposals. It was previously rumoured that the Centre would also impose a ban on ads of soft drinks.
Nine major food business operators have decided not to advertise products with high fat, salt or sugar on children’s channels, she added.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had constituted an expert group to address the issue of high fat, sugar and salt foods. “The expert group in its report made a recommendation regarding ban on food with high fat, sugar and salt advertising on children’s channels or during children shows. On this recommendation, the remarks of the FSSAI were that the food businesses could be asked to voluntarily desist from advertising high fat, sugar and salt foods on children’s channels,” Irani said.
According the a Business Today report, in 2014, the World Health Organisation had called for protecting children from the harmful effects of the marketing of junk food and soft drinks. It had said that the junk food industry is vast and is becoming increasingly sophisticated, and children are its prime targets.
It had also recommended that there be a restriction on consumption of foods rich in fat and sugars.