Ethical advertising and F&B owners

MAA says there are guidelines on public health that SMEs should adhere to
MALAYSIAN Advertisers Association (MAA) is appealing to all food and beverages brand owners, especially the small and medium size enterprises (SMEs), to be aware of self-regulatory guidelines on public health when promoting their products.

This is to ensure responsible and ethical food-related advertising as Malaysia is experiencing an increase in obesity rate.

The overweight and obese made up nearly half the its 30 million population in 2015.

According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund last April, Malaysia is one of several Asean countries facing simultaneous crises of children being overweight and those who are undernourished.

A child whose growth is stunted during early childhood is at greater risk of becoming overweight later in life. The risk for being overweight goes up with increased access to junk food and drinks (those with high trans-fat or sugar content and low nutritional value), physical inactivity and sedentary lifestyles.

MAA council member Raja Zalina Raja Safran says most of the big players are aware of the self-regulatory guidelines but the SMEs should also be aware of them as they are part of the industry as well.

The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) Food and Beverage Manufacturing Group (FMM MAFMAG) launched the responsible advertising to children – as part of the industry’s ongoing pledge to supporting healthy and active lifestyles – in August 2013.

FMM MAFMAG was established in 1984 under the aegis of FMM to represent the interest of the manufacturers in the food industry

Claudian: ‘For it to work we need more players to get involved.’
Claudian: ‘For it to work we need more players to get involved.’

Raja Zalina, who is also chairman of the public and communications committee for the FMM MAFMAG, says currently the 12 signatories of the pledge comprised of only the big players and owners of food and beverages brands.

She says the signatories of this pledge have committed to only advertise products that meet agreed nutritional criteria based on accepted scientific evidence or applicable national and international dietary guidelines to children under 12 years.

Additionally, they will not have any forms of communication related to their products in primary schools except for educational or information purposes.

Also they will not use children, celebrities or licensed cartoon characters in advertising primarily directed to children under 12, unless the advertising complies with the specific nutrition criteria.

Each signatory will develop its own nutritional criteria and publish specific individual company commitments.

Apart from this pledge, the advertising industry is governed by a code of conducts set by Advertising Standards Advisory Malaysia (ASA) and the Commucation and Multimedia Content Forum Malaysia (CMCF).

MAA council member Claudian Navin Stanislaus cautions that people may think that this self-regulation is holding them back but if the government decides to step in it should introduce penalties as well.

“At the moment there is no government regulation as there are trade associations such as MAA, ASA, FMM MAFMAG and CMCF that provide self-regulation guidelines.

“But, we must make sure it works and for it to work we need more players to get involved and I am taking this opportunity to ask more SMEs to join MAA.

“It applies to everyone in the industry, we are trying to be as visible as possible so that people know there are guidelines.

“Broadcast is easier as it is monitored by the CMCF and it will take action against those that infringe the code, but for the print and outdoor media, self-regulation is voluntary,” he says.

Another MAA council member Mohamed Kadri Mohamed Taib says MAA, as a trade organisation, has a role to play and one of them is to protect the interest of its members.

“Public health concerns the people as well as the government.

Mohamed Kadri: ‘Public health concerns the people and the Govt.’
Mohamed Kadri: ‘Public health concerns the people and the Govt.’

“If we do not take action now, the government may implement hard measures that are not commercial-friendly.

“So we want to make sure that our members are doing their businesses according to best practices and be mindful of public interest as well,” he says.

*Source from The Star – 18th March 2017

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