INDIA – The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has signed an agreement with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), to safeguard consumers against misleading claims in food and beverage (F&B) ads, attributed in part to the surge in complaints amongst consumers, amidst the Covid 19 pandemic.

ASCI will identify ads which violate provisions of Food Safety and Standards Regulations and FSSAI would further investigate these.

According to a statement issued by ASCI, it will set up a three-member expert panel to evaluate foods and beverages advertising identified by the ASCI monitoring team.

“There has been a marked increase in the number of complaints against foods and beverages ads during the Covid-19 pandemic. In the last financial year, ASCI processed a total number of 284 complaints compared to 175 in FY 2019-20,” the statement said.

A report by media agency Zenith noted India will be the fastest-growing market for FMCG brands’ F&B advertising over the next three years, with spending rising to 14% a year which further necessitates the monitoring of these advertisements.

ASCI Secretary-General Manisha Kapoor pointed out the agreement will aid the council in intensifying its scrutiny of the F&B sector.

He informed that they will tap the national advertising monitoring service, which monitors over 900 television channels and publications, and over 3,000 websites, not forgetting the regional and local ones.

After which the experts, with decades of experience in the F&B sector, will shortlist those ads that require further scrutiny by FSSAI.

Uganda’s “self-regulated” drinks

It is however interesting to note that as FSSAI is making strides in India, Ugandan netizens are pointing fingers at the country’s regulatory bodies for slacking in consumer protection.

The residents and leadership in Uganda’s Ankole Sub-region have raised concern over the safety of uncertified nutritional and therapeutic value drinks that have flooded markets.

According to a survey conducted by Daily Monitor, such companies sponsor misleading adverts on radio stations to entice unsuspecting clients into buying their products, most of which are fake.

It highlighted that a new drink hits the market monthly in shops and supermarkets without any visible quality and standard mark or proof of certification.

Mr. Enock Kariisa, the Bushenyi deputy district Internal Security Officer, said the manufacturing of the drinks has created fear and anxiety among locals.

“I think the National Drug Authority (NDA), line ministries and agencies need to carry out rigorous regulation and sensitization of manufacturers and consumers because unregulated production of these drinks is causing more harm than good,” he said.

The NDA southwestern regional manager, Mr. Kenneth Kiiza, acknowledged the illegal running of misleading product adverts by some radio stations and affirmed the agency’s commitment towards ensuring all advertisements are vetted.