European sports nutrition group raises red flags for London marathoners

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

ESSNA: "As long as they comply with EU regulations, sports nutrition products can have enormous benefits and their use is encouraged as part of preparations, during the race, or to aid recovery.”
ESSNA: "As long as they comply with EU regulations, sports nutrition products can have enormous benefits and their use is encouraged as part of preparations, during the race, or to aid recovery.”

Related tags: Sports nutrition, European union

The 40,000 professional and amateur runners that will spill through the streets of London this weekend for the London marathon can benefit from sports supplement use but should be wary of dangerous products, the biggest European sports nutrition group has said.

The ever-more-active European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA) warned athletes to be careful of products, especially those purchased online and manufactured outside the European Union, but backed their use in general.

“We have made immense progress over the past year to eliminate dangerous products and we can say with confidence that there are certainly less of them around, but unfortunately rogue traders do still exist,” ​said ESSNA chair, Dr Adam Carey.

“Sports nutrition products are extremely tightly regulated and the majority of the non-compliant products are currently distributed via the internet and often come from outside the EU. Although we are continuing to do our utmost to make sure the problem is being adequately addressed, it is important that sports nutrition consumers are made aware of this.”

Dr Adam Carey-ESSNA
ESSNA chair Dr Adam Carey

“Running the London Marathon is a fantastic achievement and we would like to see all runners enjoy the experience and get the opportunity to safely and legitimately achieve their targets. As long as they comply with EU regulations, sports nutrition products can have enormous benefits and their use is encouraged as part of preparations, during the race, or to aid recovery.”

Collaboration against adulteration

ESSNA is working with local Trading Standards bodies to remove products from market bearing unauthorised formulations or labelling.

“As someone who has been fortunate enough to have run several marathons I know what a test a marathon can be in terms of mind and body and the valuable role supplements can play in helping fellow runners achieve their ambitions,” ​said Andy Foster, head of policy at the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) in the UK.

“Unfortunately there are unscrupulous traders that sell products which are unsafe and can cause serious medical conditions or even fatalities. My advice would be to only buy supplements from a reputable source and never try out a supplement for the first time on race day. If you've bought anything that you think may not be legal you can contact trading standards at 08454 04 05 06.”

ESSNA a year ago began a campaign to clean up the sector, “to protect consumers and continue to improve the reputation of the growing industry.”

In addition to working with TSI, it has also worked with the Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and UK Anti-Doping, with 34 cases investigated and 13 found to be in breach of the EU nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR) or contaminated with now-banned stimulants like DMAA (dimethylamylimine/ methylhexanamine).

“Other cases were referred to relevant authorities,”​ ESSNA said.

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