A group set up in the wake of a long-running "size zero" debate has come up with a series of measures it hopes will protect the health and welfare of models in the UK.

Recommendations suggested by the Model Health Inquiry include a ban on girls under the age of 16 from appearing on the catwalks at London Fashion Week and in photo shoots, establishing a trade union for the modelling profession, and enforcing annual medical screenings.

But the advice of the panel, set up by the British Fashion Council to encourage the industry to behave responsibly, rules out weighing models because this has proved "ineffective" in other countries.

Instead it believes models' Body Mass Index, or height/weight ratio, provides a better guide to health, and that models with BMIs below 18.5 should not be used.
 
The panel - chaired by Baroness Denise Kingsmill - is made up of eating disorder organisations, model agencies, academics, fashion designers, retail groups and models. It is due to deliver a full report, which will include firm recommendations, before London Fashion Week in September.

Other measures being considered include greater health education and awareness about eating disorders, a healthy backstage environment, and a scientific study into the prevalence of eating disorders among fashion models.

Commenting in the interim report published yesterday (11 July), Baroness Kingsmill said: "The Panel has set out an approach designed to protect vulnerable young workers in an industry which appears to be glamorous but which has hidden risks and that for all practical purposes is largely unregulated and unmonitored.
 
"During our investigations members of the Panel became increasingly concerned as we heard more details about the working conditions faced by many models and the vulnerability of young women working in an unregulated and scarcely monitored work environment.

"There was also strongly expressed concern that it is profoundly inappropriate that girls under 16 - under the age of consent - should be portrayed as adult women. The risk of sexualising these children was high and designers could risk charges of sexual exploitation."

The row over models' sizes has erupted last year after the deaths of two models appeared to be linked to eating disorders. 

However, the British Fashion Council's reluctance to endorse an outright ban size-zero models sets London apart from Madrid, Milan and New York, which are all adopting stricter guidelines on skinny models. Paris has also refused to introduce new guidelines on sizes, claiming its rules are already strict enough.