The Lancet Regional Health - Southeast Asia  |  November 15, 2023

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The regulatory Indian environment for advertising high fat, salt, and sugar (HFSS) foods and non-alcoholic beverages, on various media was reviewed. Identified national-level policies were categorised as mandatory or self-regulatory based on legal content. For each mandatory regulation, Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis was undertaken to determine how existing policies could be strengthened to safeguard children from unhealthy food advertisements. Thirteen policies (nine mandatory; four self-regulatory) relevant to advertising in India were identified. Of the nine mandatory policies, Guidelines for Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements, 2022, is the only policy that restricts HFSS food advertisements to children across all media. There are key shortfalls, including limited scope of ‘child-targeted’ advertisements and lack of criteria to define HFSS foods. A robust regulatory framework is needed to protect children from HFSS food marketing, not just what is ‘directed’ at them, with clear evidence-based food classification criteria.

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