France is cracking down on unhealthy fashion models as a public health project

Doctor’s note required.
Doctor’s note required.
Image: AP Photo/Thibault Camus
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Models in France will now have to present a doctor’s note to prove they are healthy enough to work, and magazines will be forced to label retouched fashion photos, thanks to a bill French lawmakers passed on Dec. 17 to combat body image issues.

The bill orders models to meet with physicians to determine whether their Body Mass Index (BMI), a measure of body fat, is healthy enough to be “compatible with the exercise of her profession,” according to the Guardian.

This measure improves on an earlier version of the bill passed in April. That legislation required that models document that their BMI was 18 or higher before working; in France, the average BMI is 23.2. If modeling agencies and fashion brands worked with models who fell below the line, the employers could face six months in prison or a €75,000 ($81,500) fine.

Brands and agencies are still liable for those penalties under the new bill if they employ models deemed an unhealthy weight, but no models are prohibited from working in the fashion industry because they fall below a specific BMI number. Some critics felt that approach was too reductive and might exclude otherwise healthy models.

The bill is meant to combat eating disorders in France, and cultivate healthier body images for both professional models and young girls who may admire them, according to health minister Marisol Touraine. By health ministry estimates, as many as 40,000 people suffer from anorexia in France—90% of them are women, and almost all of them are adolescents.