Fashion industry issues guidelines on the use of under-nourished women on the catwalk

Britain's fashion industry will this week issue new guidelines on the use of skinny models, reigniting the debate about size zero.

The British Fashion Council will tell its members they should not use models who are obviously anorexic, following hard on the heels of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, which last week issued its own guidelines.

Hilary Riva, head of the British Fashion Council, which runs London Fashion Week, said: "It is my personal preference that no designer would use an ultra-thin model, but the issue of discrimination comes into play when you tell people they are too thin to work," she says.

Because of this, she says, London will not be banning models with a BMI of less than 18, as Madrid did last September.

Spain and Italy have made moves to clamp down on the use of ultra-thin models and the issue has gained momentum internationally.

Last week, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, advised designers not to allow models under 16 on the catwalk, and to provide models with education into the cause and effects of eating disorders.

Speaking just weeks before the start of New York Fashion week, the CFDA president, Diane von Furstenberg said: "The CFDA is about awareness and education, not policing. Therefore, the committee is not recommending that models get a doctor's physical examination to assess their health or body-mass index to be permitted to work."

Spain and Italy have issued much tougher recommendations, perhaps more acutely affected by the deaths of two models who starved themselves in the hope of improving their chances of catwalk work.

The Eating Disorders Association yesterday welcomed the debate but said models being required to get doctors' certificates is not the solution. "Doctors do not have enough training to be able to detect signs of an eating disorder," a spokesperson said.