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No proposal to ban junk food ads on TV: Smriti Irani

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MUMBAI: Childhood obesity is a rising problem in India. The issue was addressed in today’s Lok Sabha session when a reply was sought from the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Smriti Irani on whether the government is aware of the study that correlates watching ads on TV with increasing habit of eating junk and if there is a proposal to impose a ban on telecast of junk food and cold/soft drinks advertisements on television.

In a written reply, Irani said that presently there is no such proposal to bank such ads on TV. Admitting that obesity in children was a concern, she mentioned that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has informed that the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has constituted an expert group to address the issue of High Fat, Sugar and Salt foods (HFSS).

The expert group in its report made a recommendation regarding ban on foods with HFSS advertising on children’s channels or during children shows. 

On this recommendation, the remarks of the FSSAI was that the food businesses could be asked to voluntarily desist from advertising HFSS foods on kids’ channels. Bodies like Food and Beverage Alliance of India have already decided to voluntarily restrict food and beverage advertisements concerning children. 

Nine major food business operators have already joined this campaign and have decided not to advertise products with HFSS on kids’ channels.

Although the move of banning will promote healthy eating habit among children, it will hamper revenues of major advertisers on channels such as Pogo, Nickelodeon, Disney and others. 

In December 2017, the Ministry had asked TV channels not to air advertisements selling and promoting condoms calling them indecent, especially for children. The government further reasoned that such ads can create unhealthy practices among them. Following this, there was a complete ban on condom ads on television between 6 am to 10 pm.

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