The charter requires that models at fashion shows or appearing in advertisements have a body-mass-index of at least 18.5 – a European dress size 36 – and be 16 years old.
"We want to take a clear stand against an unhealthy body image,“ said Health Minister Ulla Schmidt.
The agreement was signed by fashion trade fair organizer Igedo, the industry federation German Fashion, the German Fashion Institute and the Velma federation of licenced modelling agencies.
While the agreement in Germany does not require a doctor's certificate, as a similar charter in the UK does, Schmidt called it a "milestone“ in the fight against eating disorders. She said she hopes other sectors, such as the advertising industry, will sign on to the agreement, and that it could be the foundation for a Europe-wide charter.
Frank Hartmann, director of the fashion trade fair organizer Igedo, called on the industry to show "that dying of hunger is not part of the job.“ The case of Brazilian supermodel Ana Carolina Reston, who died of anorexia two years ago at the age of 21, was a wake-up call to the industry.
Gerd Müller-Thomkins, director of the German Fashion Institute, criticized the "distorted aesthetic ideas“ of designers, who tend to prefer very thin models.
Around 600,000 people between 15 and 35 years of age in Germany suffer from anorexia or bulemia. According to research carried out by the Robert Koch Institute, about 22 percent of young people between the ages of 11 and 17 have some kind of eating disorder. Among 17-year-old girls, the number is 30 percent. One in ten people suffering from anorexia dies from it.
The advertising industry has been strongly critical of Health Minister Schmidt. The Federation of the German Advertising Industry (ZAV) has accused the industry of using populist and misleading arguments and refused to take part in the initiative.