Too broad vs. too limited: Can the sports nutrition industry climb out of regulatory purgatory?

By Annie Harrison-Dunn contact

- Last updated on GMT

'The industry is now in danger of a regulatory framework that is so broad that it does not recognise the specific needs of sports people,' vice-chair of ESSNA writes in the journal Nutrition Bulletin
'The industry is now in danger of a regulatory framework that is so broad that it does not recognise the specific needs of sports people,' vice-chair of ESSNA writes in the journal Nutrition Bulletin

Related tags: Sports nutrition, Sports nutrition products, Nutrition, European union, European specialist sports nutrition alliance

A European Commission report due in July this year should bring legal clarity to the current regulation obscurity that surrounds the sports nutrition market, according to a paper by the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA).

The Commission report will address the need for additional rules for the sector and comes as a response to member state concerns around consumer protection.

leser2_large

Suzane Leser, vice-chair of ESSNA and author of the paper published in the journal Nutrition Bulletin​, said it would be crucial in setting the legislative framework for sports nutrition products “once and for all”.

Yet she warned that after a decade-long debate on how to regulate sports nutrition, the sector could now be facing an opposing challenge of the regulation pendulum swinging from too specific to too broad.

Currently sports nutrition products were covered by the Foodstuffs Intended for Particular Nutritional Uses (PARNUTS) regulation and there had previously been discussion of a specific ‘dietetic’ regulation apart from regular foods under the Foods for Specific Groups, something ESSNA said would limit growth and innovation.

While that risk seemed to have subsided, the upcoming report could present an opposing challenge.

Special sports people

Today, as sports nutrition products have evolved to attend to the needs of the wider active population, the industry is now in danger of a regulatory framework that is so broad that it does not recognise the specific needs of sports people,”  ​Leser, who is also head of nutrition for ESSNA member company Volac, wrote.  

In the report she gave the example of a health claim stating: “Sodium is needed for the functioning of muscles.” ​The claim was approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in 2011 but subsequently rejected by member states and the Commission due to concerns around what the claim would communicate to the general population about sodium intake and health.  

This was an example of when the special nutritional needs of sports people had not been considered since sodium was the main electrolyte lost during heavy sweating and therefore needed to be replaced after intense muscular exercise of more than two hours.

Leser said such a provision would have to contain appropriate adaptations”​ to the general food law in order to recognise the special nutritional needs of sports people and to remove technical barriers to trade.

“Overall, ESSNA is of the opinion that instead of adding another layer of regulation, authorities should ensure that existing laws are implemented and rigidly enforced,”​ she wrote.

 

Source: Nutrition Bulletin

Vol. 40, Iss. 1, pp 45–53, doi: 10.1111/nbu.12126

“Sports nutrition in a regulatory limbo”

Authors: S. Leser

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