The European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA) says it has tackled 406 cases of non-compliant sports nutrition products in the last five years as part of its efforts to ensure consumer safety and protect the integrity of the industry.
Cases have involved products that mislead consumers or included banned doping substances, said the trade association.
“We are delighted with the progress we’ve made so far,” commented Dr Adam Carey, chair of ESSNA.
The work is part of ESSNA’s campaign to eradicate sports nutrition products that do not abide by the rules and regulations put in place for the protection of consumers.
Since the campaign’s launch in 2013, ESSNA says it worked with various stakeholders and enforcement authorities to develop frameworks, guidelines and reporting systems that can successfully ‘police’ the industry.
“Rules and regulations around sports nutrition are stringent and the majority of the industry seeks to comply – but there is, unfortunately, a problem of monitoring and enforcement,” explained Carey. “This is why we were happy to step into that void and act as a connector between the industry and the enforcement authorities, filling in the gaps where they lack resources and crucial intelligence about the sector.”
“Our campaign to date has been extremely successful and we’re thrilled with the response we’ve received from the industry, the public, the law-makers and the enforcement authorities who are crucial to this process.”
Of the 406 alerts that were reported to ESSNA, it revealed that 66 cases were resolved informally – as a direct result of ESSNA contacting the offending company, with 16 of those committing to relabelling or reformulating the product in line with EU law, and 26 agreeing to completely withdraw the product in question from the market.
A further 86 of the cases were escalated to the relevant enforcement authorities, including the UK Food Standards Agency and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, the Italian Ministry of Health, the Portuguese Economic and Food Safety Authority, and the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority, among many others.
The remaining alerts, it said, are currently still being processed.
“The fact is, not only are non-compliant products misleading and potentially dangerous to consumers, they also affect the integrity and reputation of our industry,” said Carey. “As with any other sector, the unfortunate reality is that a small but persistent minority of companies refuse to abide by European laws that cover their products, often misleading their customers to gain a commercial advantage, endangering them by using ingredients whereby the safety is questionable, and ruining the reputation of the sector.”
As part of its campaign ESSNA urges anyone who may be aware of illegal activity by sports nutrition organisations to step forward and report them.
“We must work together to eliminate our industry of these types of charlatans from our industry and ensure we are collectively operating in the most responsible manner possible,” he added. “We urge the industry to keep an eye out and report to us any product they suspect of being illegal, and we urge the public to make sure they’re avoiding these products and only buying their supplements from reputable retailers.”
Products can be reported via a dedicated form on ESSNA’s website which allows people to anonymously report non-compliant activity taking place anywhere in Europe.