A positive development | Daily News

A positive development

The Government is to bring in stringent regulations on commercial advertisements on food, according to a media report. Beginning January 1 next year, the sanction of the Director General of Health Services (DGHS) will be made mandatory before publicizing selected food advertisements.

According to the new regulations, every health claim and Nutrient Function Claim must have prior approval of the DGHS. In addition, no label or advertisement relating to any food shall indicate directly or indirectly that such food is a cure for any illness. Further, no label shall in the description of any food, bear the word ‘natural’ and ‘pure’ thereon unless such food consists of unmixed, unadulterated or unprocessed products with no additives. For example, Pure Ceylon Tea should be just that, with nothing added.

The new regulations also prohibit the promotion of any food directly or indirectly to children under 12 years old by way of advertisements, leaflets, free samples, articles or toys attached to food items.

This is a long overdue step which, had it been taken at the appropriate time, would have put a halt to the commercial exploitation of the uninitiated and unsuspecting public who all this time had been duped by commercial interests by their attractive and irresistible advertisements of consumer goods which were far removed from what these ads really claimed about them.

The public was in fact led by the nose into paying good money for little or nothing by way of quality, content or value by the glib rhetoric which was what all these advertisements really were. In fact, in most cases, the exact opposite of what the labels on the containers of certain goods claimed was the outcome.

Presently, there are advertisements on confectioneries which claim that they have minimal sugar and are even safe for diabetics. But this has been found to be only a half truth.

There are also labels on foods proclaiming these were cholesterol free but with no authentication of the claim by any medical authority. The same goes for certain other consumer items hitherto shunned by the people due to the dangers posed to the human organs.

Even in the case of alcoholic drinks, although the proof of the strength is marked on the label, there is no guarantee that this is actually the case. The public has started taking things at face value as it were, where the quality of goods is concerned irrespective of their harmful nature. The proposed new regulations, therefore, will serve the purpose of not only sparing the public from futile and wasteful expenses but also protect them from the dangers of acquiring illnesses or aggravating existing illnesses.

The manufacturers and business interests also make it a point to insert food and drink ads at prime time, slotted at intervals during popular teledramas when there are large audiences and to make them as credible and authentic as possible. Too late the public realizes that nothing that the ads claimed had come to pass and it was money down the drain.

Even other goods too should be brought under the ambit of the new regulations. Today there are various con men, quacks and frauds who advertise various cures and quick fixes in a bid to make a fast buck at the expense of a gullible public.

There are regular advertisements that appear on television offering services to help alcoholics quit the habit. Offers are also on to help fix all incurable diseases such as cancer and diabetes. There are also at present creams and gels being advertised to improve one’s complexion despite frequent warnings by medical experts of the dire side effects of using these so-called remedies.

Why cannot the DGHS look into this matter as well, since it really concerns a health matter? In fact the whole business of dubious advertising has to be probed and measures put in place to prevent the public from being duped.

Indeed, the restriction to be imposed on promotion of food to children under 12 years is certainly a wise step. This is because children are of an impressionable age and could easily be lured to being addicted to fast foods that are extremely harmful to health and harbingers of diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure etc.

These advertisements are also attractively packaged to make them irresistible to children. Parents too should be made wise to the gimmicks of commercial interests.

Today, the advertising industry has grown to massive proportions and is a source of high employment and creativity. Therefore, whatever the measures taken to prevent the public from falling prey to questionable advertisements, care should also be taken not to upset the advertising industry or hurt their sources of income. One must also not forget that the print and television media rely heavily on advertising revenue to keep their organisations going.

It would therefore be advisable for those planning to bring in the proposed new regulations to have extensive discussions with advertising firms and come to a reasonable settlement on the contents of the ads and also with the various manufacturers and business entities on ways of compromise.

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