In light of the European Parliament’s recent vote on the report to introduce mandatory nutrient profiles and front-of-pack nutrition labelling (FOPNL) obligations, the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA) stresses that a “one size fits all” approach would be detrimental to consumer information and risks damaging the sports and active nutrition industry. ESSNA calls on EU policy makers to take into account the specificities of the sector and the nutritional needs of sportspeople.

ESSNA urges policymakers to devote due attention to the Parliament’s call for the FOPNL legislation to “be developed based on independent scientific evidence and demonstrated consumer understanding, taking into account specialist foods as well as the additional burden for food operators and unions”, as stated in the report on ‘Farm to Fork Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food system’ (para 94).

ESSNA Chair Dr Adam Carey said:

“ESSNA fully supports the ambitious Farm to Fork strategy and understands that consumer information on food products is an important objective of this initiative. But without special attention paid to the sports and active nutrition sector, the proposed FOPNL and nutrient profiles obligations risk disproportionately affecting the industry and pose a barrier to the EU’s strategy to promote education on nutrition.

“This challenge is recognised in paragraph 94 of the report on Farm to Fork Strategy, following ESSNA’s extensive engagement with the Parliament and our successful campaign on this issue. It is important that policymakers are aware that food intended for sportspeople cannot be treated as generalist food. It is purposefully formulated with higher levels of certain nutrients (usually sodium or carbohydrates) to cater for the specific needs of people engaged in high-intensity exercise and other forms of activity.

“The Commission has acknowledged that sports food may include some element of specificity which may have to be taken into account in the application and implementation of horizontal rules. In respect to nutrient profiles and FOPNL, this is the case of sports nutrition products.

“The setting of nutrient profiles on sports food and a blanket application of FOPNL may mean that the special compositional characteristics of food intended for sportspeople are not adequately communicated and may risk that sports nutrition products will not be allowed to bear health claims, depriving consumers of valuable information regarding the benefits of these products.

“As a result of the industry’s successful consumer information campaign, today sports nutrition consumers know what they are looking for and they are able to make informed choices. The nutrient profiles and FOPNL regulations could potentially enormously set back the work that the industry does to improve consumers’ understanding of and access to education on specialist food products, such as ESSNA’s education campaign.”

On 19 October, the European Parliament voted on its own, non-legally binding, initiative report on the European Commission’s ‘Farm to Fork Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food system’. In accordance with the Commission’s proposal, the Parliament voted in favour of setting mandatory nutrient profiles and FOPNL, to restrict the promotion of foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS).

Following the Parliament’s vote, the EU will begin the process of introducing the nutrient profiles and FOPNL regulations. ESSNA will continue to work constructively with policy makers to ensure the specificities of sports and active nutrition will be taken into account in the new legislation.

About the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance

The European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance is an alliance of European and North American sports nutrition companies that was formed in December 2003. A full list of members of the Alliance can be found on the website:

ESSNA informs the public on all things sports nutrition though its consumer education campaign. The public can refer to the online resource for more information on everything sports nutrition related. ESSNA’s consumer website includes step-by-step guides, general dos and don’ts and a platform for the public to use to report products they believe to be dishonest  as well as tips on how to identify those. In addition, ESSNA has a separate website dedicated wholly to protein.

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 their products comply fully with the European legislation put in place for their protection.

Twitter: @ESSNAsports LinkedIn: European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance