Initially named IDACE (Association des Industries des aliments diététiques de la Communauté économique européenne) at its foundation in 1963 and consisting of a handful of national groups, the body has grown to include 21 national associations from across 19 European countries.
It now acts as a voice for nearly 300 member companies, influencing regulation and policy, advocating the benefits of specialised nutrition, and generally boosting the industry.
At its recent General Assembly, members elected their new president, Marie-France Pagerey, global senior regulatory and scientific manager for Nestlé.
Pagerey tells NutraIngredients: “I am honoured to preside over SNE and I am committed to help take the association to the next level, building on the association’s recent successes and agreed strategy. I thank my predecessor Udo Herz for his unparalleled dedication and passion.”
Providing examples of the association’s recent successes, Pagerey notes the publication of the SNE Code of Practice; which describes how the association adheres to the highest ethical standards in interactions between the infant formula industry and healthcare professionals to help ensure optimum nutrition in early childhood.
A key challenge for the association is the relative lack of knowledge and recognition of some of SNE's product groups, including: foods for infants and young children, foods for special medical purposes such as cancer patients and babies with allergies, foods for weight control, foods for sportspeople and gluten-free products.
Pagerey says the association continues to create greater visibility for the industry in its ability to provide safe, innovative and suitable products.
“We are putting particular focus on communicating more frequently and effectively about all the different product categories we represent."
Examples of recently created communication tools include this explainer on foods for Special Medical Purposes and a factsheet on baby foods which describes the raw ingredient selection and quality control processes implemented by industry to ensure the highest food safety standards.
Outgoing SNE president Prof. Udo Herz was first elected in 2017 and then re-elected in 2020. Pagerey asserts Udo’s leadership had a “significant impact on growing association membership and resources”.
She adds: “Udo also helped to navigate the association through the implementation of new legislation governing the sector and was instrumental in developing the SNE Code of Practice.”
SNE secretary-general Beat Späth said: “The SNE team in Brussels is looking forward to working with our new president to further increase SNE’s visibility, credibility and impact, and we sincerely thank our outgoing president for six years which have grown and modernized our association”.
Areas of focus
In terms of current industry issues, Pagerey says SNE continues to contribute to ensuring access to and information on products for people with specific nutritional needs.
“This means that whenever specific pieces of legislation and regulation governing our product categories are amended or proposed, we will contribute to relevant policy discussions.
“The necessary regulatory framework governing young child formula is one such areas we are working on as well as transversal topics such as those on packaging waste and nutrition labelling mentioned earlier."
Späth adds that the "sometimes unnecessarily polarised debate on the role of the infant formula industry" is an ongoing issue.
"Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for babies, of that there is no doubt. However, when mothers are unable to, or choose not to breast feed, infant formula is the only safe and suitable breastmilk substitute recognised by the WHO.
"There are many factors that influence breastfeeding rates and we argue a holistic approach is required to increase breastfeeding rates, including strengthening maternity leave, workplace policies and funding."
Pagerey adds that SNE continues to support our global partner associations on global topics linked to Codex Alimentarius, the WTO and WHO.
“Whatever the issue at hand, we feel that it is important that a larger group of stakeholders knows about SNE and our product categories, and that we are in a position to provide an industry perspective.”
60 years of milestones
IDACE was renamed Specialised Nutrition Europe (SNE) in 2013, when it moved from Paris to Brussels.
A milestone year was 1989, when the initial EC Directive on foodstuffs intended for particular nutritional uses (PARNUTs) was introduced. After several amendments of PARNUTs, it was replaced in 2016, when the new Food for Specific Groups (FSG) Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 609/2013) became applicable.
Späth says: "Much progress has been made since then, but the internal market for specialised nutrition product groups can still improve, especially through a more harmonized interpretation of the relevant legislation across the different EU Member States."
Other notable successes revolve around inputs to EFSA and the European Commission, including: helping secure high standards in food safety, securing close to 20 health claims in specialised nutrition products (2013-2016), supporting the EFSA re-evaluation of additives in specialised nutrition products (ca. 2018-ongoing), constructive involvement in international foods standards Codex Alimentarius.