A code to prevent underweight women and girls modelling for some of Italy's biggest fashion houses has been unveiled.

The self-regulatory code aims to promote a "healthy, sunny, generous, Mediterranean model of beauty" throughout the country's many fashion houses.

It has been signed by Melandri and Mario Boselli, president of the Italian Fashion Chamber, which includes many internationally renowned names such as Prada, Missoni and Versace.

Under the regulations, models must prove that they are not suffering from eating disorders such as anorexia and be over the age of 16. There are also plans to encourage high fashion houses to create designs for larger sizes.

With the rules in place, many size zero models could be effectively banned from the catwalks of Milan as government officials aim to reduce eating disorders amongst young people by providing role models of a healthier size.

The move comes after Madrid's fashion week in September saw a ban on models with a body mass index (BMI) below 18, which is considered by doctors to be underweight.

Earlier this year the fashion industry was left reeling by the death of two underweight models.

Brazilian Ana Carolina Reston began modelling aged 13 and died in November aged 21 and weighing only 40 kilograms. Luisel Ramos, 22, died of a heart failure caused by anorexia while modelling in her native Uruguay.

23/12/2006 12:04:25