Zooming in on the current regulatory challenges for active nutrition

By Olivia Haslam

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags active nutrition summit Regulation Europe United kingdom Food safety European union HFSS ultra processed food sports recovery

Educating policymakers on the purpose of sports and active nutrition to achieve positive legislative change is the main challenge for the industry, the vice-chair of ESSNA, the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance, told the audience of NutraIngredients’ Active Nutrition Summit.

Simon Jurkiw's presentation at the Active Nutrition Summit on 10th October provided insights into the role of ESSNA and its efforts to support and advocate for the sports and active nutrition industry in Europe.


ESSNA is a European organisation dedicated to representing the interests of businesses in the sports and active nutrition sector, established in response to the anticipation of policy changes and increased pressure on the industry.

“ESSNA plays a crucial role in advocacy and lobbying at the European Parliament level, and maintaining strong connections enables it to influence policy directly”, Jurkiw explained.

The organisation collaborates with its members to gather feedback and formulate a collective stance on industry-related issues, a collaboration that allows ESSNA to effectively communicate the sector's perspective to relevant decision-makers.

Jurkiw notes that a big problem ESSNA is aiming to address is scientific data such as safe upper limits being interpreted in different ways across different territories in Europe.

He explained that it is not a question of needing more research, but needing “a grown-up conversation, and a look at the population data to establish why this is happening.”

Unique challenges

According to Jurkiw, the sports and active nutrition industry faces regulatory challenges that differ from those of general food products.

He explained: “Products with higher sugar content, even when necessary for recovery, can be considered unhealthy under certain legislation, posing challenges for the sector.

“There is work to be done to distinguish the industry's unique needs and challenges from those of conventional food products."

He explained in an interview with NutraIngredients, “In an ideal world, we would put more responsibility on the consumer. However, we can’t expect them to differentiate between different types of fat for instance. 

“Therefore, from a policy point of view, we need to be able to show the differentiation between different products for different target groups, so ultimately we do the work for the consumer.”

Jurkiw added that another big challenge in the market is selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs), which are adulterating the sports nutrition category's reputation. 

“SARMs, very simplistically put, help athletes ‘get bigger hormonally’, but there are legal restrictions from selling SARMs.

“However, there is an abundance of websites across the UK and Europe, some of which are well-established brands that have been around for a long time that are selling SARMs. 

“As consumer perception goes, protein powders unfortunately get grouped in the same category, as people don't necessarily understand the difference.

“One of ESSNA’s key roles at the moment is to try and attack with that by cracking down on people that are playing 1,000,000 miles outside the rules.”

However, Jurkiw added that he has faith in consumer choices within the sports nutrition industry, as he feels “an active nutrition consumer is likely to research more into what they consume."

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