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Misleading food ads and regulations to curtail them

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: Governance: Government Policies and Interventions


Source: TH

 Context: The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has flagged 32 new cases of misleading advertisements and claims made by food business operators.

  • FSSAI has referred the cases to licensing authorities and warned that offenders face penalties of up to INR 10 lakh or suspension or cancellation of licenses for repeated offences.


What are misleading advertisements?

Misleading advertisements are those that make false or exaggerated claims about a product or service with the intention of deceiving consumers.


Examples of misleading advertisements:

Company Misleading Claim
Detox Tea Co. “Lose 10 lbs in 7 days with our tea”
Beauty Products Inc. “Eliminates wrinkles in one day”
Bourn Vita “Our drink is low in sugar” (when it contains high sugar content)
Fresh Teeth Inc. “Whitens teeth 10 shades in one use”
Hair Care Co. “Regrows hair in 2 weeks”
Social Networking Inc. “100% safe and secure”


Impact of misleading advertisement:

Loss of Customer Trust Volkswagen used deceptive advertising to market their diesel cars as environmentally friendly, causing damage to the environment and a loss of trust in the company by customers.
Negative Brand Image PepsiCo’s advertising campaign for Aquafina bottled water, which claimed the water was “pure, perfect and refreshing,” was misleading because the water was sourced from tap water.
Legal Consequences L’Oreal was sued by the Federal Trade Commission (USA) for advertising that their anti-ageing creams could mimic the effects of a surgical facelift.
Health Impact For example, sugary drinks such as soda are associated with many health problems.
Ethical impact Unfair Competition, Breach of Trust, Deception and Manipulation



Legal provisions against misleading advertisements:

Legal Provisions Description
CCPA’s Guidelines to Prevent False or Misleading Advertisements Issued in 2022, these guidelines cover goods, products, and services, and aim to prevent false or misleading advertising.
Food Safety and Standards Regulations, 2018 Specifically deals with food (and related products), and regulates product claims, while the above guidelines deal with goods, products and services.
Cable Television Network Rules, 1994 Advertisements must not draw inferences that it has “some special or miraculous or supernatural property or quality, which is difficult to prove.
FSS Act 2006 Misleading ads are punishable under Section 53 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.
Consumer Welfare Fund Set up under the Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) Act, 2017, this fund promotes and protects the welfare of consumers.
Central Consumer Protection Council Monitors and enforces consumer protection laws facilitates consumer education, and provides consumer redressal mechanisms.
Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020 These mandatory rules require sellers to take back defective or deficient goods, withdraw services, or provide refunds if goods or services do not meet the description on the platform.
Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) A self-regulatory organization that monitors ads and deals with complaints against them in India.



Tags given to packaged foods:

Tag Description Example
Natural A food product that is a single food derived from a recognized natural source and has nothing added to it. Packaging must be done without chemicals and preservatives. Fresh fruits and vegetables
Fresh The term “fresh” can only be used for food products that have been washed, peeled, chilled, trimmed, or cut without any other processing that alters its basic characteristics. If food is processed in any way to extend its shelf life, it cannot be labelled as “fresh.” Freshly baked bread, freshly squeezed juice
Pure “Pure” is to be used for single-ingredient foods to which nothing has been added, and the unavoidable contaminants are within prescribed controls. Pure honey, pure maple syrup
Original “Original” is used to describe food products made to a formulation, with a traceable origin that has remained unchanged over time. Original recipe potato chips
Nutritional Claims Nutritional claims in food advertisements can be about the specific contents of a product or comparisons with another food item. “High in protein”, “Low in sugar”



To improve food safety in India, companies should provide evidence to support their claims and modify advertisements for better consumer understanding. FSSAI and state food authorities should conduct surveys to ensure better enforcement and administration of the FSS Act. Compensation and fines should be increased in cases of injury or death, and more food testing laboratories should be established.



Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA)

Central Consumer Protection Authority (founded 2019; HQ: New Delhi; Ministry: Ministry of Consumer Affairs Food and Public Distribution) is a regulatory authority set up under Section 10 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 in relation to matters affecting the rights of consumers by individuals or entities


Food Safety and Standards Authority of India

FSSAI (founded 2008; HQ: New Delhi) is a statutory body established under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India. The FSSAI has been established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, which is a consolidating statute related to food safety and regulation in India.


Insta Links

 Regulating misleading advertisements


Mains Links

 Do you think that the brand ambassadors of products should be held accountable for misleading advertisements and endorsements? Examine. (250 Words)


Prelims Links

Consider the following statements: (UPSC 2018)

  1. The Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 replaced the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954.
  2. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is under the charge of the Director General of Health Services in the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.


Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2


Answer: A