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Chinese Celebrity Fined a Million Dollars for Illegal Food Ads and More…

As revealed by the notice released on May 28, 2022, Guangzhou Administration for Market Regulation fined Chinese actress Jing Tian 7.22 million yuan ($1.08 million) as her endorsements of a food product violated the Advertising Law. Obviously, the negative publicity has tainted the reputation of both the endorser and the food brand. 

The illegal food ad & endorsement 

According to investigation conducted by the market regulator, Guangzhou Infinite Free engaged Jing Tian as the brand ambassador for its fruit and vegetable pressed candy, which is a kind of ordinary food. The company has no effective evidence to prove that the product has the effect of "preventing the absorption of sugar, oil and fat". While Jing still claimed in her own name and image that the endorsed products had the effect of "preventing the absorption of oil and sugar" in the ads, breaching the relevant provisions of the Advertising Law. In addition to fine, she is also forbidden to endorse any other products in the next three years.

Shortly after the announcement of the punishment, Jing apologized on Weibo for not carefully checking the business contract and hurting consumers who mistakenly trusted the product. She vowed to be responsible to consumers and would not endorse related products in the future. On major E-commerce platforms such as Taobao and JD.com, this kind of pressed candy has been taken off the shelves. State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) also announced to support the crackdown campaign of illegal food ads endorsement in a follow-up statement. 

More recent illegal cases 

In February of 2022, Japanese beverage brand Suntory was fined by the market regulator in Shanghai, because the ad for its liquor products violates the Article 23 of Advertising Law, which bans liquor ads containing any description of the act of drinking.

Suntory's case is actually not rare. Just two months later, in April, Chinese fruit drinks maker Missberry was also caught up in a similar situation. In an ad video, the actor showed the act of drinking twice. 

Also in April, an infant formula brand named Yashili was fined for illegal ads too. To enhance brand visibility and obtain a greater market share, it used SEO optimization to link some key search words like “closest formula to breast milk” and “breast milk-like formula” to its formula products on several popular Chinese social media. This action was deemed to express or imply that its formula products can be a substitute of breast milk, breaching the Article 20 of Advertising Law, that is, it shall be prohibited to publish, on mass media or in public places, advertisements of any infant diary product, beverage, or other food which claims to substitute breast milk in whole or in part.

Compliance of food ads 

In China, Advertising Law is the most significant legal reference to regulate the advertising of various types of foods including some special foods like health food and infant formula. It stipulates the legal liability for advertisers, types of false advertising, types of prohibition, endorsement, etc. With the market regulator's crackdown on food ads and celebrity endorsements getting more intense, stakeholders shall strictly obey the rules and be truly responsible for consumers. 

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