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CMCF cracks down on misleading slimming product ads

Communications and Multimedia Content Forum of Malaysia (CMCF) has issued a set of recommended guidelines for advertising on slimming products and services. The guidelines extend to assist industry practitioners intending to produce and distribute ads and commercials in the electronic networked medium.

The Content Code currently imposes an absolute bar on slimming products – whether used physically or consumed orally – for advertising purposes. Slimming products and services in this content include diet supplements ranging from pills, capsules, tablets, liquids and powders.

“These guidelines aim to reduce any ambiguity relating to advertisements and commercials of slimming products and services,” said Izham Omar, CMCF chairman. “Unless specific regulatory or statutory requirements are cited, these guidelines, which not legally enforceable, only serve as recommendations.”

However, advertisements for slimming clubs, clinics, and workshops are acceptable provided they conform to the Content Code guidelines. Claims that individuals have lost specific amounts of weight or number of inches must be approved by the named individual and state the period over which the benefit claimed.

Among the products and services that cannot be advertised to promote weight loss include sauna and Turkish baths, hypnosis, thermal pads, slimming patches, bath essences and soaps, anti-depressants, slimming creams, and machines including electrical muscle and nerve stimulators.

“The primary purpose of these guidelines is to ensure that advertisements and commercials abide by the rules as set our in the Content Code and the Ministry of Health guidelines,” Izham said. “Misleading the public clearly goes against the grain of ethical standards in advertising.”

He adds that claims that products and services can induce weight loss are only acceptable if they comply with prescribed guidelines.

Vitamins and mineral supplements are however allowed to advertise to safeguard against deficiencies in poorly planned diets – but not to contribute to weight loss. Such products must be approved by the Medicine Advertisement Board and the Ministry of Health before being advertised.

Diet plans advertised and promoted must include an adequate amount of carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals with an indication of achieving the results claimed for the specific category of consumers. This must be done without any reference to any ingredient capable of hastening weight loss.

Diet aids such as foods, food substitutes, appetite suppressants, or meal replacements can only be advertised if they are prominently supported that these products are only effective jointly with a calorie-controlled diet.

Meanwhile, wearable slimming products such as corsets must refrain from suggesting that they can contribute to weight loss or physiological benefits either in the copy or illustration. Exercise-based products must also avoid any suggestion of weight loss or slimming.

“There are far too many exaggerated claims that have resulted in short-term eight loss or negative results,” said Izham. “There is no substitute for managing weight loss through a properly planned diet, preferably recommended by a certified medical consultant, and exercise.”

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