The European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA) has welcomed the publication of the European Commission’s long-awaited report concluding that sports foods can be covered by General Food Law provisions, which permits the industry space for growth and innovation and puts an end to more than a decade of regulatory uncertainty.

ESSNA is particularly encouraged by the Commission’s acknowledgment of the need to consider the specific requirements of sportspeople within that framework. The Commission notes that an element of specificity of sports foods “may have to be taken into account” when implementing general food legislation “so that such specificities can be adequately addressed”, in particular through appropriate health claims, which is a route welcomed by ESSNA.

Additionally, ESSNA is hopeful that the clarification of this legal framework will mean that all national legislation specific to sports foods will be repealed, ensuring the proper functioning of the internal market.

The much-welcomed report comes after 13 years of debate amongst regulators across Europe on how sports nutrition should be governed. ESSNA, which today represents a diverse over 50 stakeholders across the whole of Europe, played a large role in the debate and subsequent report findings. ESSNA was originally formed to campaign for a realistic and flexible regulatory approach that would not stifle the industry’s growth, innovation and internal market access but would continue to ensure the safety of consumers. The outcomes of the Commission Report consolidates ESSNA’s influence, commitment to members, and its success as an organisation representative of the sports nutrition market in Europe.

Dr Adam Carey, Chair of ESSNA, said:

“This is a watershed moment for the industry. After years of discussions and disputes there is finally light at the end of the regulatory tunnel for sports nutrition, and here at ESSNA we are delighted with the outcome – as, I’m sure, is the rest of the sector.

“The Commission report’s conclusion that sports foods can be covered by General Food Law works for a number of reasons; sports nutrition is no longer the domain of elite athletes that it was ten years ago, its use is much more widespread and there isn’t actually much that makes it different from general food. Sports foods are simply formulated products that support their target audience in achieving consumption of the right amount of nutrients at the right time and in a convenient format. In practice, this simply means that, for example, someone running the London marathon who halfway through needs to replenish on carbs that can be found in normal foods such as baked beans, honey or bananas, can much more conveniently get the same sustenance from a sports gel or protein bar being handed out on the side of the road.

“Additionally, science has long established that people engaging in exercise have different nutritional requirements from the general public – for example a martial artist who’s hoping to speed up recovery after an injury – and so we’re delighted that the Commission recognises that these requirements need to be taken into account when general food laws are formed and implemented in future.

“Last, but not at all least, the report is hugely welcome because it expects to address the thorny issue of the proper functioning of the internal market. The legislative uncertainty that the sector has experienced over the past years has meant that Member States have been allowed to produce divergent and sometimes conflicting laws, hampering the movement of free goods and constituting a barrier to trade. We are very hopeful that these practices will come to an end once the legislation is adopted on 20th July. ESSNA will of course continue to engage with all stakeholders until then.”

ESSNA is the voice of the sports nutrition industry and is in dialogue with regulators and policy makers, campaigning in favour of proportionate EU legislation that does not adversely affect the industry. ESSNA also acts to unofficially ‘police’ the industry by monitoring and reporting irresponsible companies that flout EU law and may put consumers at potential risk from dangerous products.