The advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has sent a notice to Heinz India to either modify or withdraw an advertisement which claims that its health drink, Complan, increases a child's height by as much as two times.
ASCI said the Complan ad, which has the tagline 'Drink Complan and see the difference', depicts exaggerated growth in children on consuming Complan, in terms of height, amounting to gross exaggeration in absence of any scientific validation.
"The television advertisement showed that there is twice as much increase in height after drinking Complan. However, when asked to quantify the claim made in the advertisement, Heinz failed to substantiate it," said ASCI secretary general Gualbert Pereira. Heinz had assured ASCI last November (during a Consumer Complaint Council meeting) that it would comply with its judgement. However, the ads are still being aired on kids' channels like Pogo and Cartoon Network and some regional channels. This led to another complaint last December.
A Heinz spokesperson said, "Heinz India strongly believes in responsible advertising and subscribes to the code of ASCI." She, however, refused to answer queries on the latest complaint filed against it.
ASCI, which has no legal sanction, publishes a quarterly report with a list of defaulters, which is sent to the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry. "If the defaulters do not comply with the judgement, the ministry has the rights to ban the advertisement," said Mr Pereira.
The government has made it mandatory for television commercials to abide by the ASCI code. The amendment made in Cable Television Networks (Amendment) Rules, 2006 states that no advertisement, which violates the Code for Self-Regulation in Advertising, as adopted by ASCI, for public exhibition in India, from time to time, shall be carried in the cable service.
Following the I&B ministry's directive to adopt the ASCI's self-regulatory code for television ads, the health ministry has now recommended that the ASCI code be followed while advertising drugs, cosmetics and toiletries in India.