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New rules demand celebrities and influencers be honest about health product promotions

In a recent development, public figures like celebrities and influencers who portray themselves as “health experts or medical advisors” are now required to include “clear explanations” whenever they talk about health-related products. This change also extends to medical professionals and fitness experts who need to disclose their certifications when they endorse products or share health advice.

The government’s “Additional Influencer Guidelines for Health and Wellness Celebrities, Influencers, and Virtual Influencers” have introduced these mandatory requirements.

The Ministry of Consumer Affairs took this step after consulting with various parties, including health and Ayush ministries, as well as organizations like the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI).

According to the new norms, celebrities and influencers portraying themselves as health experts or medical practitioners must “clearly separate their personal opinions from their professional guidance” and avoid making health claims without proper evidence.

The guidelines emphasize that they need to include a statement indicating that their content is not a replacement for professional medical advice. The guidelines also suggest that during such promotions, endorsers should motivate their audience to consult health professionals before making any significant changes to their diet, exercise, or medication routines.

These guidelines are now added to the existing ‘Guidelines for Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements’, initially published by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs in June 2022.

The disclosure or disclaimer, as stated, must be visible during endorsements, promotions, or whenever health-related statements are made.

It’s important to note that these rules do not apply to general wellness and health advice that is not linked to specific products or services, and not targeted towards particular health issues or outcomes. For instance, advice like “stay hydrated by drinking water,” “engage in regular exercise,” “limit screen time,” and “use sunscreen to protect from UV rays” are exempt from these regulations.

Aug 11, 2023

Source : The Economic Times