In a statement released this week, the alliance argues the introduction of nutrient profiles is not suited for specialist products and would not improve the understanding of sports nutrition food products.
ESSNA goes on to state that the proposals would have the opposite effect intended by the Commission and prevent consumers from making healthy, informed choices.
“ESSNA fully supports the ambitious Farm to Fork strategy and understands that consumer information on food products is an important objective of this initiative,” says ESSNA’s Chair, Dr Adam Carey.
“In the case of sports nutrition products, the existing regulatory framework provides sufficient information for consumers to make informed choices.
“The Commission’s proposal on nutrient profiles would not improve the respective legislation. Rather it would pose a barrier to the EU’s strategy to promote education on nutrition.
High protein & electrolytes
So, for example sports nutrition products that are often high in protein have been linked to health benefits of which, such as maintenance of normal bones.
Under the terms set out for nutrient profiling, consumers would not be made aware of this health benefit as these products would be prevented from bearing this health claim.
Another example refers to a Scientific Opinion made by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), in which carbohydrate-electrolyte solutions were able to reduce perceived exertion/effort during exercise, enhancement of water absorption during exercise, and maintenance of endurance performance.
“It is essential that the Commission considers introducing exemptions for food intended for sportspeople,” Dr Carey adds.
“Proposed regulation such as this could set back the work that the industry does to improve consumers’ understanding of and access to education on specialist food products.
“It is crucial that this is taken into account by the Commission when considering major changes to legislation.”
These changes stretch back to 19 January 2009, the date in which the EC committed to establishing nutrient profiles that foods or certain groups of foods had to respect in order to bear nutrition and health claims.
In what has turned out to be a much delayed and maligned process, the latest plans centre on the recent evaluation on the feasibility of nutrient profiles published alongside the Farm to Fork Strategy on 20 May 2020.
The evaluation findings found that the setting of nutrient profiles was “still pertinent and necessary” to ensure a high level of consumer protection and that further consideration was justified.
ESSNA highlights the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as adding to consumer’s increased interest in active lifestyles and nutrition, which they say would be hindered if sports nutrition products were included in the nutrient profiles regulation and front of pack nutrition labelling.
“These products are intended for use by adults who lead an active lifestyle and aim to meet specific dietary needs of people performing exercise,” the alliance states.
“Therefore, removing information on the benefits of sports nutrition products, through nutrient profiles, would create major obstacles for European citizens looking to adapt to healthier and more active lifestyles.”
ESSNA’s concerns appear to be supported by a 2016 report produced by the Commission intended for the European Parliament and the Council.
Here, the Commission states that sports food may include “some element of specificity,” and that “this 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.”