Specialised Nutrition Europe (SNE) warns that current legislation introduced only two years ago does not go far enough to address strict formulation and information requirements of foods specifically created for these consumer groups.
The Brussels-based body add that this oversight could run the risk of exposing more consumers to the dangers of obesity, malnutrition and food allergies.
“Sportspeople’s nutritional needs differ from the ones of the general population and the general EU food legislation should appropriately consider these specificities by special rules for sports food,” said Aurélie Perrichet, SNE’s executive director.
“SNE want to see specific rules at the EU level for young child formulae to ensure appropriate composition/ labelling as well as the application of the highest EU food safety rules applicable to foods intended for infants and young children.”
SNE is therefore calling for the establishment of a policy framework that recognises the role of specialised nutrition products as a way to tackle societal challenges,” she said. “Consistency should be ensured taking into account the different pieces of legislation now applicable to specialised nutrition products.
“The specificities of these foods should also be recognised in the EU legislation.”
FSG two years on
Comments from SNE come as the two-year anniversary approaches marking the introduction of the Regulation on Foods for Specific Groups (FSG).
The regulation, introduced to replace Directive 2009/39/EC on foodstuffs intended for particular nutritional uses or PARNUTS, abolishes the concept of dietetic foods and provides a new framework for a limited number of food categories considered essential for vulnerable population groups.
These include infant formula and follow-on formula, processed cereal based food and baby food, food for special medical purposes; and total diet replacement for weight control.
In addition to the FSG, there are general EU food provisions and national rules that apply to both product categories.
Infant formula can rely on additional protection from Codex standards on follow-up formulae.
SNE have also highlighted the EU’s very own roadmap “Stocktaking of the Commission’s ‘better regulation’ approach” written in an attempt to improve the status of specialised nutrition across the EU.
Calls for clarification
However, SNE’s efforts to spot gaps in this raft of EU legislation is not in isolation after other EU associations signed a call last year, emphasising the need to establish specific provisions for sports food at EU level.
In collaboration with EU Specialty Food Ingredients, European Vegetable Protein Association (EUVEPRO) and Food Supplements Europe (FSE), the group wanted to see a clear definition of the category with an appropriate legal name so that application and implementation of EU law could consider these products’ specificities.
In addition, the group wanted to see certain essential formulation criteria introduced to ensure appropriate consideration of the nutritional needs of sportspeople.
The possibility of referring to specific nutritional needs associated with the sports activity in the product labelling was also suggested.
Without these adaptations, the group said, the development of small and medium-sized enterprises focused on the sports nutrition market would also be threatened,
Barriers to trade would be formed between Member States because of diverging national provisions and interpretations of the EU legislation, they added.
“This restricts intra-community trade and does not ensure a same level of protection to all European consumers. SNE considers that EU harmonisation is necessary,” said Perrichet.
In its report on sports food dated of June 2016, the European Commission concluded that sports food could be appropriately regulated under the general EU food legislation.
However, the commission recognised that the specificities of these foods might need to be taken into account via adaptations of the general EU food legislation. To date, no such measures have been actioned.
Responding to SNE's suggestions, Dr Adam Carey, chair of the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA) said, "ESSNA agrees that sportspeople have some very specific nutritional needs and requirements that differ from the general population's, and that these must be taken into consideration when legislation is being produced."
"However, we believe that this can be very adequately, and in fact is best, addressed within General Food Law, and particularly within the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (NHCR). It is essential that the needs of sportspeople are taken into account during the NHCR authorisation process, and this can be achieved by ensuring that claims that have been positively assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have a condition of use specifying their use only by consumers undertaking a certain level of physical activity.
"At ESSNA, we will continue to work to ensure the best legislative outcome for the industry and the public which allows our sector to grow and innovate."