The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) is set to issue guidelines to designers ahead of the city’s fashion week in February.
But they are reportedly only due to aim to promote healthier behaviour among catwalk beauties, rather than introduce rules governing their weight as Madrid did last year.
According to the New York Times the recommendations are likely to include not scheduling fashion show fittings with younger models late at night, so they can get more sleep, urging designers to identify models with eating disorders and introducing more nutritious backstage catering.
“It is important as a fashion industry to show our interest and see what we can do because we are in a business of image,” the council’s president, Diane von Furstenberg, told the newspaper.
“But I feel like we should promote health as a part of beauty rather than setting rules.”
Eating disorder experts said they were disappointed by the US industry’s response, however.
In September Madrid banned models with a body mass index – or height to weight ratio – of less than 18.
Last month in Italy authorities and fashion designers adopted guidelines ruling that models had to have a BMI equivalent to 121lb (8st 9lb) for someone five foot seven inches tall.
The Illinois-based Academy for Eating Disorders, an international doctors’ organisation, insists such measures are necessary, the New York Times reported.
Its president, Dr Eric van Furth, criticised the American designers for not soliciting medical opinion other than from a panel assembled by the editors of Vogue magazine.
“We believe the fashion industry should take responsibility for the health of its models,” said Dr van Furth, who is the clinical director of the Centre for Eating Disorders Ursula in Leidschendam, in Holland, told the newspaper.
“The way they are presenting their guidelines really shows they are not acknowledging the seriousness of the problem of eating disorders at all.”
Lynn Grefe, chief executive of the US National Eating Disorders Association, said: “I am surprised every time that people say overly thin models do not cause eating disorders.
“Their response looks like a PR cover on a real problem.
“It is like saying tobacco advertising does not cause lung cancer.”
The executive director of the CFDA, Steven Kolb, said its committee included three prominent health experts: nutritionist Joy Bauer, fitness trainer David Kirsch, and Dr Susan Ice, a psychiatrist at the Renfrew Centre in Philadelphia, which treats eating disorders.
“It is not as if what we are discussing is being developed without the advice of people who are experts in that area,” he told the New York Times.