British Fashion Council: Models Should Be At Least 16, Screened for Eating Disorders

A report by the British Fashion Council, organizers of London Fashion Week, has stopped short of recommending a ban on ultra-thin models.

But the report, published Friday, says fashion models should be 16 years of age or older and should be screened for eating disorders.

Catwalk shows featuring designer clothes hanging off the shoulders of lanky girls face increasing pressure to act after models died from suspected eating disorders.

Ultra-thin models were banned from fashion week runways in Madrid, Spain, and Milan, Italy, last year. Organizers in Paris, London and elsewhere have come under pressure to do the same.

The British report, written by a panel composed of fashion designers, models and an eating disorder specialist, asked agencies to certify that their models had been examined for eating disorders by an accredited list of medical experts.

Up to 40 percent of models may have eating disorders, compared with an estimated 3 percent of the overall population, the report said.

The report said most of those interviewed by the panel said "weigh-ins" before catwalk appearances would be impossible to enforce.

Eating disorder charity BEAT welcomed the recommendation but warned that certification could be difficult.

"Identifying whether someone has an eating disorder can be quite a lengthy process," BEAT Chief Executive Susan Ringwood said. "It can take a number of investigations and interviews. It's a psychiatric condition."

Blood tests and physical examinations can identify symptoms of malnutrition, but diagnosing an eating disorder requires interviewing a patient, she said.

The British Fashion Council hopes to combat eating disorders through medical tests, mentoring programs and workshops.

Other recommendations backed by the report include criminal background checks on agents and photographers working with young models, random drug testing backstage, more funding for research into eating disorders and the creation of a model health watchdog.