China Cracks Down on Food Labelling and Ads
Moneylife Digital Team 30 January 2018
One by one, various countries are making it tougher for food companies to continue to function as before. Among the latest to target food and supplement companies is China’s Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP), which wants to prevent illegal advertising for food, drugs and wellness products. In a circular issued in January 2018, SPP has asked its officials to step up investigations and scrutinise celebrity endorsements more closely. In September 2015, China updated its advertising regulations, for the first time since 1994, in order to better protect consumers. One of the important pillars of the new law is controlling celebrity endorsements.
 
The new law states that celebrity endorsers can be held responsible for false claims in ads, while child celebrities under the age of 10 cannot endorse products. Brands cannot claim that it is guaranteeing the product’s safety, or that it can prevent diseases. Companies cannot use false and misleading terms like ‘the most advanced’ or the ‘best’. Advertisements cannot carry any health claim, or carry endorsements from medical institutions or a consumer. 
 
The company said: “At the time, there were uncertainties in the market about the new advertising law, and we were unaware that the language used was no longer allowed.” The government has asked officials to increase information-sharing with government agencies, search the media for breaches, and encourage tip-offs from informers. “If the watchdogs fail in their responsibilities, procuratorates should not hesitate to initiate litigation,” a government press release said. The order is in response to foods, supplements and drugs targeting ‘gullible, elderly or rural consumers’. 
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