Sports food is general food, says long-awaited Commission report

By Annie Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

'There is no necessity for specific provisions for food intended for sportspeople,' says Commission report. Trade group 'deeply concerned' about legal gap left. © / mel-nik
'There is no necessity for specific provisions for food intended for sportspeople,' says Commission report. Trade group 'deeply concerned' about legal gap left. © / mel-nik

Related tags European union

Sports food belongs under general food law not the upcoming Food for Specific Groups (FSG) regulation, the European Commission has concluded in a report that will leave industry opinion divided.

There are clear indications that sport has become mainstream in the general population. Consequently, people carrying out sports activity can hardly be characterised as a specific vulnerable group of consumers but rather as a target group of the general population who is protected at an appropriate level by horizontal legislation,” ​the Commission concluded in its much-anticipated report​.

“From this analysis, it can be concluded that there is no necessity for specific provisions for food intended for sportspeople.”

The report comes as the Food for Specific Groups (FSG) regulation is due to replace PARNUTS (Foods for Particular Nutritional Purposes)​ regulations and national rules from July 20.

A 13-year regulation race​ 

While the FSG regulation does not include in its scope food intended for sportspeople, its small print required the Commission to produce a report for the European Parliament on the necessity, if any, of provisions for food intended for sports people.

Industry opinion has been divided on the long-running issue. Trade group Specialised Nutrition Europe (SNE) has argued for special measures for the sector while fellow trade group the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA) insisted this would hurt the areas that has an increasingly mainstream consumer group.

The Commission’s report conceded that there were some “element of specificity” ​of sports food which may have to be “taken into​ account by the Commission in the application and implementation of the horizontal rules, so that such specificities can be adequately addressed”.

However it remains unclear what this will mean in concrete terms, and the SNE says this leaves a dangerous gap in legal provisions.

Maintain the status quo! says SNE

It said it was “deeply concerned”​ the appropriate adaptions would not be made in time for the swap over to the FSG regulation in July. 

SNE called on the European Parliament and Council to intervene and request a temporary extension of the current PARNUTS rules until general food law was “appropriately adapted to include clear and tailored rules reflecting the specificities of these products”.

“Without clarity on the EU and national rules applicable and in the absence of a definition for sports foods at EU level, both manufacturers and national enforcement bodies will be faced with a lack of legal clarity to the detriment of sportspeople and the sector in Europe.

“SNE urges the EU to maintain the status quo of the current rules, until appropriate adaptations to general EU food law are in place.”

ESSNA was working on its position statement at the time of the publication of this article. 

EU anti-doping logo needed 

The Commission also acknowledged in its report that food businesses had raised the issue of the use of doping substances.

"However, this is not relevant to the European food legislation and should be addressed on the basis of international and voluntary standard,"​ it said. 

The SNE also called this a missed opportunity, saying national initiatives in this field created barriers to trade because terms of reference and logos often differed.

"It is critical for the safety of sportspeople that the EU rules establish harmonised terms of reference for quality systems, based on harmonised good manufacturing practices (GMP) in relation with doping substances.

"A single standard should exist within the EU and promoted via an EU logo in order to ensure the suitability of foods marketed as 'intended for sportspeople."

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