ESSNA urges the Government to ensure exemption of sports nutrition from the legislation

6 April 2021.  The UK Government has been challenged on adult and childhood obesity. As part of an effort to tackle this, they are cracking down on restrictions for products high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS). ESSNA stressed the importance of ensuring food products in sports nutrition are not affected as they contribute to a healthy lifestyle. The Government must clearly define what products will be regulated as HFSS and issue a clear list of exemptions for products intended for sportspeople to avoid confusing industry and consumers.

Sports nutrition products are crucial to supporting a healthy and active lifestyle, which actively prevents obesity. Their benefits are well documented and the marketing is clear in explaining the right conditions of use. ESSNA has urged the Government to ensure that the promotion of sport, physical activity and balanced diets remain at the core of this regulation, rather than providing unclear restrictions that affect public health.

Dr Adam Carey, Chair of ESSNA, said:

There is a serious gap in the upcoming regulation of HFSS products in the UK; at the moment, we do not know whether the Government’s proposal is based on the Nutrient Profile Model (NPM), which looks at food composition while disregarding the specific purpose sports nutrition products serve.  These products are, by design, made with higher levels of certain nutrients to cater to the specific needs of people engaged in high intensity exercise and other forms of activity, and the benefits of these products are very well documented in scientific literature. The Government’s strategy is to tackle childhood obesity. Blanket restrictions without appropriate exemptions and guidance for enforcers and businesses risk damaging a multitude of specialist food sectors, such as the sports nutrition industry, which play a key role in supporting the government objectives of a healthier, fitter Britain.”

“Sports nutrition products are by no means identifiable as HFSS and are not targeted at children. They are intended for adults leading active lifestyles. Sports nutrition products provide clear information and labelling to ensure that consumers have access to safe products and can make healthy, informed choices. The Government needs to provide adequate guidance to enforcement authorities in respect to the products that fall within the scope of the proposed legislation and clearly outline that specialist products, including high protein bars and carbohydrate-electrolyte drinks, should be exempt from HFSS restrictions.

“ESSNA fully supports the UK Government’s goal to tackle obesity and improve people’s diets. For instance, our consumer education campaign which works to ensure consumers are well-informed on sports nutrition products, are purchasing and using products that are unique to their specific needs, and are staying safe, has been very successful since its launch in 2016. We urge the UK Government to acknowledge and support the contribution of sports nutrition industry on the promotion of healthy diets and active lifestyles.”

 The UK government has already introduced sugar tax, and is now bringing in more legislation to tackle childhood obesity. They are planning on restricting the promotion of product categories that are significant contributors to children’s sugar and calorie intakes. The Government launched a public consultation to investigate, among other issues, the scope of the categories and products that should be subject to the restrictions. ESSNA, the voice of the specialist sports and active nutrition sector in Europe, participated in the consultation to ensure that food products intended for sportspeople will not be caught by the restrictions and to bring to the forefront the role that sports nutrition can play in helping consumers to lead healthy lifestyles.

The proposed legislation is not clear on whether the restriction of specific food products will be based on the Nutrient Profile Model (NPM). The regulation should be clear in its goal, tackling childhood obesity, not impacting sports nutrition products. ESSNA believes that sports nutrition products should not be defined as HFSS.

ESSNA urges the Government to clarify what model will be used for the definition of the product categories that contribute to childhood obesity and to provide clear exemptions for sports nutrition products. The Government must also explain what constitutes a product that will come to the attention of children, provide efficient guidance to enforcement authorities and ensure that the latter are clear about what products fall within the scope of the new legislation.