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French fashion signs charter against anorexia

Even in France, ultra-thin models are going out of style.

French fashion industry representatives signed a government-backed charter Wednesday pledging not to encourage eating disorders and to promote healthy body images.

The document, backed by the Health Ministry, asks signatories to promote "a diversity of body representations" and "not to show images of people that could help promote a model of extreme thinness."

The charter was signed by groups including the French Couture Federation, the French Federation for Women's Pret-a-Porter and the Union of Modeling Agencies, as well as some representatives of advertising and media.

It is not binding.

The international fashion industry has drawn criticism for hyping the super-thin look, and concerns about anorexia have grown in France — and around the world — since the reportedly anorexia-related deaths of several South American models in 2006, including Brazilian Ana Carolina Reston.

Guidelines have been in place in France since the 1980s to regulate French modeling agencies, including mandatory medical visits for models under 16.

Officials in other countries have taken much more dramatic measures to promote healthy body images. The Madrid fashion show bans women whose body mass-to-height ratio is below 18, while Milan bans models below 18.5.

However, another much tougher, and more contested, measure against eating disorders is to go before France's parliament this month.

Valerie Boyer, a lawmaker from French President Nicolas Sarkozy's party, has proposed a bill to make it possible to convict people responsible for Web sites or fashion ads that promote anorexia, with penalties of up to two years in prison and 30,000 euro ($47,178) in fines.

The bill, which has the health minister's support, is set to go before the National Assembly next week.

The French Health Ministry says about 30,000 to 40,000 people suffer from anorexia in France, including 3,000 to 4,000 men.

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