Industry calls for EU sport food clarification to shore up safety concerns

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

“Without such adaptations, consumers will not have access to the information they need to properly and safely use sport foods”, said the trade associations Specialised Nutrition Europe (SNE), EU Specialty Food Ingredients, the European Vegetable Protein Association (EUVEPRO) and Food Supplements Europe (FSE). ©iStock/
“Without such adaptations, consumers will not have access to the information they need to properly and safely use sport foods”, said the trade associations Specialised Nutrition Europe (SNE), EU Specialty Food Ingredients, the European Vegetable Protein Association (EUVEPRO) and Food Supplements Europe (FSE). ©iStock/

Related tags: European union

A quartet of sports food industry associations are calling for clearer product labelling and clarification for the safe use of sport and nutrition products within the European Union.

The associations are urging the European Commission to provide updates to account for sports food specificities that manufacturers formulate to meet the needs of athletes.

Restrictions on current EU legislative framework on general food also raise safety concerns, which the associations think are putting at risk its safe use.

Sports foods are specifically formulated to meet the nutritional requirements in case of physical performance and recovery after exercise,​” stated president of Specialised Nutrition Europe (SNE) Roger Clarke.

“Without such adaptations, consumers will not have access to the information they need to properly and safely use sport foods”,​ added fellow trade associations EU Specialty Food Ingredients, the European Vegetable Protein Association (EUVEPRO) and Food Supplements Europe (FSE).

Slow progress

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) acknowledged in 2015 that specific nutritional requirements are required for varying levels of physical exercise to avoid detrimental outcomes on athletes’ wellbeing.

On 15 June 2016, the European Commission followed up with a report that stated sports food could be appropriately regulated under general EU food law.

However, specificities of these foods would need to be taken into account in the application and implementation of current horizontal EU rules.

The trail of progression has since turned cold as this latest call asks for a clear definition of the category and the establishment of certain essential compositional criteria.

In addition, they are asking for labels to refer to specific nutritional needs of people engaged in sports activities - not to the general population; and the authorisation of conditions of use to properly inform consumers.

Future barriers that hinder trade between Member States are also a consideration as the joint call highlighted this as a possible cause of conflict.

“The diversity of national rules or interpretations is threatening the functioning of the EU single market, creates operational burdens and hinders innovation for companies,”​ the joint call said.

“It would also lead to consumers not having access to the same or equivalent products in all Member States.”

FISP growth

According to Euromonitor, the EU market for food intended for sportspeople (FISP) was worth €3.07 billion in 2014 data with the UK, Spain, Germany, Italy and Sweden heading a buoyant region.

With compound annual growth rates of 2.2% between 2009 and 2014, Euromonitor also saw the market for sports nutrition grow substantially over the period while that of sports drinks shrank.

“We trust that our Call proposes constructive and pragmatic solutions to ensure the much needed adaptations of the general EU food law for sports food”,​ added the associations.

“In the meantime, SNE, EU Specialty Food Ingredients, EUVEPRO and FSE support a transition period to ensure that the status quo remains until the necessary adaptations and harmonisations are finalised.”

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