Calls mount to evolve EU sports foods regulations


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UNESDA: “In the past national rules have made it difficult to commercialise a single sports drinks formula across the whole of the EU and this should be guarded against.”
UNESDA: “In the past national rules have made it difficult to commercialise a single sports drinks formula across the whole of the EU and this should be guarded against.”

Related tags Eu member states European union functional beverage beverage

European food bodies have reiterated calls to better regulate the sports food, drink and supplement category to ease uncertainty and inconsistency across the EU’s 28 member states – and boost innovation.

They want the specific nature of sports foods reflected in EU law so that aspects like labelling, claim-making and anti-doping measures can be adequately incorporated in product formulation and marketing.

Whilst some in the sector would prefer a “specific EU regulatory framework”, ​there remains a consensus to adapt existing general food law coupled with fair treatment under the EU nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR), the fortified food regulation, recently adapted EU Food Information to Consumers (FIC) law and under-implementation Food for Special Groups (FSG) law which kicks into play on July 20, 2016.

Speaking at a European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA) congress in Brussels last week, Specialised Nutrition Europe (SNE) called for “a clear definition and scope” ​for the multi-billion euro category.

ESSNA itself has said its preferred route is for general food law to be amended.

Labelling amendments were needed to “better inform sports people about their particular nutritional characteristics and instructions for use” ​that were not covered under FIC, and FSG, itself evolved out of arcane PARNUTS laws (Foods for Particular Nutritional Purposes). The sector says regulations need to reflect the specialisation of the category.

The NHCR, which favours nutrition and health effects demonstrated in general populations, needed to account for the specific needs of sports people”.

The European Commission was due to deliver a report on potential EU legal avenues for sports foods this summer, but publication has been delayed and nothing is expected to be finalised until 2016.

SNE said the existing market was highly fragmented as EU member states adopted idiosyncratic approaches to the sports nutrition market, which crimped inter-nation trade and innovation.

SNE's options for sector recognition in EU law

The Brussels-based group that represents actors operating in sectors like infant nutrition, medical nutrition and gluten-free, said national anti-doping schemes that may verify products as being free of prohibited doping agents could block cross-border trade “because terms of reference and logos often differ”.

It said uncertainty also existed in exports of sports foods and supplements from the EU to other nations like Russia, Turkey and South Africa that may have different legislatures in place.  

SNE proposes a definition of a 'sport food' as a food “specifically designed, formulated and marketed in relation to physical activity, physical performance and/or post-exercise recovery."

Sports drinks

Also speaking at the ESSNA conference, UNESDA (the Union of European Soft Drinks Associations) – stated sports drinks could “in principle, be regulated adequately by the horizontal [general food] legislation…subject to some adaptation of that legislation.”

It called for attention to be paid to nutrient profiles, sports marketing terminology, fortification levels and EU harmonisation.

“In the past national rules have made it difficult to commercialise a single sports drinks formula across the whole of the EU and this should be guarded against,”​ the group said.

UNESDA members include Lucozade brand owner Suntory along with Coca-Cola (Powerade) and Pepsi (Gatorade).

ESSNA members include Carbery, First Milk, Iovate Health Sciences, Mass Nutrition Kostexperten, Maxinutrition,, NSF, US Nutrition Ltd, Volac, Weider Germany, Glanbia Performance Nutrition and PhD Nutrition.

SNE members are the national associations of 17 EU member states representing medical, sports, infant and other specialist food firms like Danone-Nutricia, Abbott Labs and Nestlé.

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