In 2015, the beloved Indian comfort food Maggi disappeared from shelves after it was claimed that the instant noodles contained higher than permissible levels of lead and mono sodium glutamate. Apart from raising questions on general safety standards as well as the timing of the government’s campaign against Maggi’s manufacturer Nestle, the affair also brought into light the legal and professional liabilities of celebrity brand ambassadors. Hindi film stars Amitabh Bachchan and Madhuri Dixit were blamed for endorsing Nestle’s claims that noodles are healthy and safe. The Maggi row has blown over, but there is more bad news in store of celebrities who pick up fat pay cheques in return for singing the praises of consumer products and services.
A report by the Parliamentary Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution has prompted the Ministries of Consumer Affairs and Law to approve changes in the Consumer Protection Act to provide for a jail term of up to five years, apart from a penalty of Rs 50 lakh, for false and misleading ads.
The stringent move might encourage film celebrities to be more careful about what they lend their name and fame to. They might avoid commercials in which they make promises that the products cannot keep, and leave that task to anonymous models who do not bear the burden of authority.
Fair and Handsome Our obsession with equating white skin with beauty, virtue and success has spun off a highly lucrative fairness cream industry. The actresses Asin and Pooja Hegde have appeared in the Tamil commercials for Emami’s Fair and Handsome, but it was Shah Rukh Khan’s endorsement that boosted the cream’s popularity – and landed Khan in a hot soup. The protests were on the lines of: Dear Shah Rukh, you have a truckload of assignments, and you can do without promoting sales of a casteist and racist product.
Kellogg’s Special K An already slim and toned Deepika Padukone embarks on the journey of losing weight in two weeks to look thin for a wedding. She makes her fans believe that eating two bowls of Kelogg’s Special K cornflakes will work for them since it has worked for her. Sure, a diet made up exclusively of cornflakes will result in dramatic weight loss, but at what cost?
Hanuman Chalisa Yantra When television stars Ronit Roy and Shivaji Satam (aka ACP Pradyuman from CID) appear on your television screens endorsing a Hanuman-shaped locket that will solve your troubles, it is time to worry. Relying on the logic of a higher power, the commercial has people on the screen talking about how the spiritual power of the locket has saved their lives, healed their bodies and solved all their problems. It’s almost like...magic. A petition was filed by a Maharashtra resident against airing these misleading advertisements on TV channels.
Power Prash A product claiming to improve bedroom behaviour hit the streets in 2012. Power Prash, a play on the word chyawanprash, is an Ayurvedic concoction that claims to build immunity and better sexual performance (both are surely linked). Actress Kashmira Shah lent her star power to the product, but commercials and print advertisements were halted after the Maharashtra government served notices to newspapers and TV channels.
Sandhi Sudha oil The Food and Drug administration filed 67 complaints against the advertisements of this product being endorsed by actor Govinda. The advertisements for the product, which claimed to wipe out all aches and pains, were eventually withdrawn.