ESSNA chair Dr Adam Carey reiterated that the trade group is a pan-EU organisation, and its engagement with EU institutions would continue regardless of whether the UK was a member of the Union.
The statement comes as the UK voted to leave the EU on Thursday 23 June.
“We have already made it a priority to build on the strong links that we have with a number of member states, and to develop new relationships with others, and this will continue,” Dr Carey told us.
“Needless to say the UK is a very important trading body and so we will, of course, be following all developments in the coming years very closely. Of course there is a period of uncertainty ahead but for the foreseeable future nothing changes for the industry in the UK in terms of regulation.”
To leave the EU officially, the member state leader must invoke article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which works in an extendable two-year negotiation period from this point, but it is unsure when article 50 will be invoked at this stage due to instability within the ruling Conservative Party.
From London to Brussels
Chris Whitehouse, ESSNA director of strategy, echoed this, saying there would not be any changes seen immediately but a HQ shift from London could be on the cards.
“ESSNA’s headquarters will continue to remain in the UK for the foreseeable future because the UK is still in the EU for possibly the next 2-3 years. We will analyse the circumstances and consider the question of relocation once we have further clarity, and then put options to ESSNA members,” he told us.
“One of those options may well be to establish an office in Brussels, but it would simply be premature to leap to that conclusion at present.”
EU outsiders, ESSNA insiders
He maintained ESSNA membership would become “even more vital” for its UK-based members once the country leaves the Union.
“The majority of these members trade across the whole continent and so will need to continue engaging with EU laws regardless of whether the UK is on or out. ESSNA will become absolutely essential to them.”
In the last few years ESSNA has appointed itself something of a ‘police’ to the European industry, in a bid to clean up the reputation of the sports nutrition sector and help austerity-struck national authorities combat firms shirking EU regulation.
Whitehouse said again this was a pan-EU mission with no particular focus on the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) or Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
“[W]e act on complaints on a case by case basis, depending on where they are made. This will continue as normal, as will our liaison with all 28 member state competent authorities and their permanent representatives in Brussels,” he said.
He said it was simple, EU member or not the UK remained within Europe geographically and ESSNA would continue to forward information onto its relevant authorities.
It remains to be seen however whether the UK will continue to follow the same regulatory framework once it comes out of the EU definitively.
Some stakeholders have said the UK is likely to keep in sync with the EU’s food law to make trade with the bloc easier.
Meanwhile others have their fingers crossed for deviation.
On Friday (24 June) Ewa Hudson, head of health & wellness research at Euromonitor International said: "Brexit potentially gives an opportunity to review the evidence and the legal status of health claims. But this opportunity may not happen any time soon, if at all. First, we are facing a period of uncertainly."
Netherlands-based author and long-time critic of EU food law Bert Schwitters said the Brexit result was “Great News”.
“What started as a Common Market based on the principle of Mutual Recognition metastized into an uncontrollable bureaucracy that is trying to overrule all aspects of reality and, in terms of nutrition and health, is trying to control consumer behaviour through regulating what food business operators must or must not produce and must or must not say,” he said.
Confused about all this talk of Brexit? Read our quick guide here.