Stricter rules that compel online intermediary platforms to inform the public about illegal products and which ensure permanent exclusion of repeat offenders that harm the whole sports and active nutrition sector are crucial for the safety of the industry and its consumers, says the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA) in its response to the European Commission Proposal for a Regulation on a Single Market for Digital Services (DSA).
Dr Adam Carey, Chair of ESSNA said:
“The importance of detecting and tackling serious risks in relation to food or feed is acknowledged in EU food legislation, yet current provisions do not adequately protect consumers online. Especially when it comes to food supplements and sports nutrition, the safety of consumers and the urgency in removing illegal products from the markets is paramount. Sports nutrition consumers should have the right to know if a product they have purchased is not compliant and they should be able to purchase goods online with the same level of confidence, information and protection they have offline. The DSA is an important step in the right direction, but there is much scope for improvement.
“The DSA foresees the temporary suspension of companies providing manifestly illegal content. That’s not enough. Such companies should be permanently excluded from e-commerce. For eight years now, ESSNA has been running a targeted award-winning campaign to improve consumer safety and reduce unfair competition by addressing the issue of non-compliant sports nutrition products, particularly online. Since 2013, we have tackled over 500 cases of non-compliance and we have cultivated excellent relations with EU and national enforcement officials, who now regularly seek our intelligence and advice on a range of issues. But our formal power is limited, and provisions should be in place to ensure online platforms are more transparent and accountable for the products and information provided online.”
The majority of sports nutrition companies comply with legislation. But it is not infrequent to encounter cases of repeat offenders who persevere in selling harmful products online, or products making unsubstantiated claims about their benefits, in spite of multiple requests to stop such practices. This harms the reputation of the sector as a whole, argues ESSNA in its response to the DSA consultation.
The Commission introduced the DSA in order to upgrade the rules governing digital services in the EU, such as online platforms and marketplaces. The DSA’s objective is to create a safer digital space in which the fundamental rights of all users of digital services are protected. In its response, ESSNA emphasized that the DSA should introduce further obligations for online platforms to ensure that the information on food offered on their space is the same as that applicable to food sold in physical shops. This should include the name of the food, the list of ingredients, the name and address of the responsible operator, instruction of use, the quantity of certain ingredients and nutrition declaration.
ESSNA also urged the Commission to clarify how trusted flaggers, a system envisioned in the DSA to enable users to report illegal content, would cooperate and interact with similar mechanisms already in place, such as ESSNA’s compliance campaign.
ESSNA also raised the issue of expanding the European regulation of online trading to companies which are active in the European market and based outside the EU. ESSNA welcomed the Commission’s decision to establish legal representatives in the EU to trace illegal products sold online from companies outside the Union but stressed that more clarifications are needed on the role and responsibilities of these representatives to secure consumers’ safety.
ESSNA’s response to the DSA consultation is available here.
For further information or comment from Dr Adam Carey or one of ESSNA’s Vice-Chairs, please contact Aristeidis Myriskos at [email protected]
The European Specialist Sport Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA) is the trade association representing the interests of the sport nutrition sector across Europe. Our members are big international companies, smaller specialist brands, suppliers of ingredients, sport nutrition publications, as well as national associations.
ESSNA was created in 2003 to campaign for appropriate policies and legislation on sports nutrition products. Today ESSNA is a mature and respected organisation, widely recognised by legislators and the mainstream media as the voice of the responsible specialist sports nutrition sector in Europe.
Since 2013 ESSNA has been running a campaign to promote compliance across Europe, targeting manufacturers, distributors and retailers involved in the manufacture and marketing of non-compliant products. Consumers and businesses are encouraged to bring any suspicious products to the attention of ESSNA so that we can take action. Products can be notified to ESSNA via a dedicated webpage or our Facebook account.
ESSNA’s kitemark helps the public identify products belonging to ESSNA members. ESSNA members sign up to its strict Code of Conduct, making a promise to the consumer that all their products comply fully with the European legislation put in place for their protection.