Upcoming EU sports nutrition law revamp – a win for industry?


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The way sports foods are regulated in the EU is set to change. But how? Craig Simpson, EU food law expert with Steptoe & Johnson in the UK, gives his view likely outcomes and industry impacts.

“Certainly one possibility is that sports foods will just fall back into the normal food law – in other words there won’t continue to be as there is at the moment a dedicated legislative framework for specific food groups which will include sports foods,” ​Simpson said recently at FiE in Paris.

Suitability statements, claims

He said he expected the multi-billion euro industry to be able to cope with the changes.

“I don’t think that is going to be as big a deal for industry as it might sound. One thing it will do is remove the possibility to make what they call ‘suitability statements’ on sports food products which does give manufacturers at the moment some scope to make statements which are something like claims.

“In fact there is an argument that you could actually include a health claim in such a statement but that is something that is not really decided and is debated between authorities and industry.”

But the tight EU health claims regime was unlikely to change significantly.

“The bigger issue is the claims that can be made on sports foods today – although they do allow things like protein claims and muscle building claims in terms of protein …and also some other claims on vitamins and so on …still the number of claims that can be made are actually quite restricted and that’s been a problem for industry.”

“Specifically branched chain amino acids – you can’t make any claims on those at the moment despite their massive popularity and widespread usage. Of course if you go the States for example there are amino acid claims all over the shop. So for companies who are operating in Europe that’s quite restrictive for certain sports products.”

More stringent?

sports body buidling steroid dangeous doping

Simpson said the momentum for tighter regulation was being boosted by sector groups like the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Association (ESSNA). 

“It’s true that associations are very responsibly – like ESSNA for example – from what I understand are actually pushing almost for tighter regulation because they want a level playing field and they want the responsibility and the reputation of the industry to improve because at the moment it does seem like they are becoming a scapegoat every time in relation to doping, in relation to safety incidents that are suffered by athletes and so on so I think for that reason they are pushing for a tighter framework which is kind of an unusual situation.”

After publication ESSNA got in touch to say it wasn't tighter regulation the group sought, but appropriate legislation.

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