The European Commission has taken the Italian authorities to the European Court of Justice over its regulations governing sports nutrition products. The Commission said that the Italian rules are a barrier to free trade within the Union. The Commission went to the Court of Justice after Italy failed to respond to an earlier complaint made in July 2001.
There are no harmonised regulations governing the control and sale of sports nutritional products in the EU, and Italy's regulations state that any product intended for intense muscular effort must obtain prior authorisation. However, since this rule applies both to products made in Italy and those imported from other Member States - where they are already lawfully produced and/or sold - this is against European rules on free trade.
Products lawfully manufactured and/or marketed in one Member State must be able to move freely in the other Member States under the terms of the Maastricht Treaty, and departures from this rule are allowed only for compelling reasons such as the need to protect health or the interests of consumers.
The Commission said that there was no special reason for the additional authorisation procedures in Italy and that they were not directly linked to the need to protect health or the interests of consumers. It added that the explanations given by the Italian authorities in support of their measure were not sufficient justification for the additional costs imposed on producers operating lawfully elsewhere in the EU.