Knowledge block? New rules for internet advertising of health foods in China from 1 May 2023

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

China is implementing new rules on the advertising of health foods and Foods for Special Medical Purposes from May. ©Getty Images
China is implementing new rules on the advertising of health foods and Foods for Special Medical Purposes from May. ©Getty Images

Related tags online advertisement samr false advertising

China’s State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) is implementing stringent new rules on the advertising of health foods, Foods for Special Medical Purposes (FSMPs), and medical devices from May this year.

It comes after SAMR announced the Measures on the Administration of Internet Advertising (互联网广告管理办法) which consisted of 32 measures.

One of the newly added measures is that the sharing of knowledge on health and wellness in an attempt to advertise health foods and FSMPs on the internet is prohibited.

Therefore, the address, contact, online shopping link, and information related to health foods / FSMPs manufacturers and service provider should not appear on the same internet webpage that disseminates information on health and wellness.

Second, health foods and FSMPs advertisements are not allowed on internet webpages and APP, social media account, and other online channels that are targeted at the underaged population.

Similar to the previous interim measures, advertisements on health foods, FSMPs, medical devices etc, should be vetted by the authorities before they are released.

The new measures are designed to keep up with new developments across China’s online advertising scene, the SAMR said.

“(The measures) provide a further break down on the responsibilities of internet advertisements operators, clearer standards on the actions, and strengthen enforcement precautions, so as to maintain the order of the internet advertising scene and promote the healthy development of the digital economy,” ​said the SAMR.  

The Measures are officially implemented from May 1 and the previous interim measures introduced in July 2016 will cease to operate.

What constitutes an advertisement?

In addition, the SAMR has broadened the types of content that should be categorised as an advertisement.

It explained that the use of experiential marketing, consumer reviews, and sharing of knowledge to market products or services, as well as providing the shopping URL or related methods to purchase the products would constitute an advertisement.

Therefore, companies which are using the aforementioned content and methods should declare that they are advertisements. 

The SAMR explained that this was because advertisements posted on the internet should be easily recognised as one by the consumers.

Companies which have violated the measures could be penalised according to China’s Advertisement Law.

In November last year, the SAMR also announced that health foods brands should refrain from engaging celebrities to endorse their products​.

The ban applies to products advertised across the online, offline channels, and TV commercials, so long as they are shown in China.

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