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Claims by Food Supplements such as Horlicks - False Advertising and Applicable Laws

Updated: Aug 14, 2020


1) Introduction

2) Law Regarding False Advertisements in India

3) Conclusion and Suggestions


Advertising is an important way by which a brand can be promoted. Through advertisements a person can be induced to buy a product. Advertisement of a particular brand by way of expression falls under freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19 (1)(a) of the Indian Constitution, however the advertisers have no right to exploit such a provision by misleading advertisements, especially for food supplements which is a necessity.

Many Food Brands like Complan, Horlicks, Saffola, and Kellogg’s have published misleading ads these food brands are leading and just to increase their sale they are wrongly influencing people by showing misleading ads to buy their food product.

Horlicks has a very interesting tag line “Taller Stronger and Sharper” and it promotes that if a child drinks Horlicks he will be intelligent and will also become taller, however this ad has been publicized without proper scientific evaluation, as of now it has not been proven as to whether Horlicks really makes a kid taller stronger and sharper. Even Complan, has similar claim that if a child drinks Complan his height will be taller and he shall become tall very soon.

Saffola which is a leading cooking oil brand showcases in its add that Saffola oil is heart friendly and it reduces cholesterol and also controls diabetes, there has been no scientific proof that these leading companies are totally giving false informations and are risking the lives of many consumers. Kellogg’s Special K too claims that people will become thinner if they eat their product as breakfast without any proper scientific evaluation. The misleading ads can have serious consequences.


Misleading Advertisement is an offence in India, and for this the advertiser can be penalised.

Section 24 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 restricts a person to make any false claims regarding a particular brand. It prohibits all advertisement which is misleading either by expressions or by writing. No misstatements regarding food supplements should be allowed as it also violates Article 21 i.e. Right to Life of the Indian Constitution.

The Advertising Standards Council of India, (1985) is an independent body which regulates Advertisements. The Fundamental Principles of this code are

a) To ensure truthfulness of the claim this is made in the advertisement.

b) The Advertisement should not be offensive or it should not be against any public policy.

c) No promotion of products which are harmful for public at large.

d) To ensure that there is fairness at the competitive market.

If a consumer feels that a particular advertisement is misleading, then he can file a complaint in this body. ASCI will ask the advertiser to respond within two weeks and then the complaint will be placed before the Consumer Complaint Cell. This Cell is authorized to take ex-parte decision if no response is submitted.

Infant Milk Substitute, Feeding Bottles, and Infant Foods (Regulation of Protection, Supply and Distribution) Amendment Act, (2002) strictly prohibits any misleading ads regarding baby food.

The Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986 states that a person who is a licensee cannot promote a product by misleading advertisement.

Section 14(h) c of the Consumer Protection Act, allows the court to pass orders if there is any complaint regarding false or misleading advertisement.


Any food product which will be launched in India should be tested properly. Advertisers and promoters of the brand should always go for scientific evaluation of that product and then decide on the tag lines for promoting the brands. When a particular food product is promoting certain health benefits if that food is consumed it must provide a scientific report for the same to the consumers so that it can be reliable and helpful for the consumers. The Doctrine of Caveat Emptor plays an important role the buyer must be aware as these advertisements can only be stopped if any consumer reports about it. Buying food items by their catchy taglines can be very dangerous at times.


Avimuktesh Bharadwaj, Complan, Saffola, Kellogg’s under scanner for misleading public, downtoearth, (27 May 2020 6.00 pm)

Pushpa Girimaji, Misleading Advertisements and Consumer 2 (2013)

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