Comeback: European sports nutrition group defends sector against QC attack


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ESSNA: "The fact is that the quality of sports nutrition products is even more rigorously controlled than that of ordinary foodstuffs.”
ESSNA: "The fact is that the quality of sports nutrition products is even more rigorously controlled than that of ordinary foodstuffs.”

Related tags Sports nutrition World anti-doping agency

Sports supplements are safer and more rigorously tested than regular foods, says Europe’s premier sports nutrition group, after UK athletics authorities questioned their use among elite athletes.

The European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA) responded to UK Athletics (UKA) statements that ongoing quality control and contamination concerns made it difficult for the body to back supplement use.

“Just as no responsible athlete wants to be suspected of doping, no reputable and responsible sports supplement manufacturer wants their products to be suspected of contamination,”​ said ESSNA general secretary, Chris Whitehouse.

“The value of their brand would be compromised.”

“All food products must be safe, appropriately labelled, free from contamination and produced to standards of good manufacturing practice. The fact is that the quality of sports nutrition products is even more rigorously controlled than that of ordinary foodstuffs.”

UKA: “a tricky place to be” for supplements

After the recent doping busts of the Jamaican and American athletes Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay - with Powell explicitly blaming contaminated supplements - UKA anti-doping education officer David Walsh told Athletics Weekly​, “With supplements you can’t give 100% guarantees.”

“This is simply because if you look at the WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency] list it says ‘this substance, this substance and similar substances’, so that leaves it open for anything else that has been developed.”

“And if you’re testing for a range of banned substances within a supplement, if there’s something out there that you don’t know about – and that you’re not testing for – then you can’t say that the supplement is 100% clean.”

“You can say that it’s tested for this list and nothing’s been found, but that doesn’t mean it’s 100% clean, which is a tricky place to be.”

Whitehouse acknowledged the UKA stance but noted many supplement manufacturers went even further than employing testing programmes like that of HFL Sport’s ‘Informed Sport’ that certifies products batch-tested and found to be contaminant free.


“While UKA makes an excellent point, it is worth noting that, in addition to complying with a large body of legislation that tightly regulates the labelling and content of products, increasing numbers of sports nutrition companies go even further and have their finished products tested for minute traces of banned substances  - which can also be found in some foods - by an independent testing facility, giving athletes extra reassurance.”

“HFL is one example which can certainly provide some security.”

ESSNA recently repositioned itself as a formal trade group and its 30+ members include Glanbia, Carbery, First Milk, Iovate Health Sciences, Maxinutrition, Volac and Weider Germany.

A recent HFL survey of 114 samples from 12 major brands across Europe found 11 were contaminated. 

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