The European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA) has warned the UK Government that blanket online and TV advertising restrictions for products high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) aiming to address childhood obesity may inadvertently harm the sports and active nutrition industry.

In its response to the Department of Health and Social Care’s consultation, ESSNA stressed that, although sports foods do not technically fall under the HFSS product category, the proposed legislation is still likely to impact them. This is because the upcoming regulation disregards the fact that sports and active nutrition products contain high amount of certain nutrients, such as sodium and sugar, to help active consumers supplement their intake. ESSNA is therefore calling on the Government to introduce adequate exemptions for sports foods from the legislation.

Dr Adam Carey, Chair of ESSNA said:

“ESSNA is very concerned that further restrictions to the advertising of sports foods risk unintentionally penalising the sports nutrition industry and defeats the very purpose of addressing obesity rates. The Government must acknowledge that sports foods are not products that contribute to childhood obesity, and its measures must reflect as such.

Sports nutrition products are not, and will never be, marketed at or suitable for children. These products are purposefully formulated to cater for the specific dietary needs of physically active adult consumers, providing them with targeted products to complement balanced diets and support active lifestyles. For instance, sports foods high in sugar and sodium aim to help sportspeople replenish energy following exercise.

Regrettably, the Government used the Nutrient Profiling Model (NPM) to determine which product categories are significant contributors to children’s sugar and calorie intakes. This system focuses solely on food composition and does not consider nor reflect the specific nutritional composition and benefits of sports foods. As a result, there is a high risk that sports nutrition products will be subject to the HFSS promotional restrictions.  

It is critical that the Government takes these nuances into account and provides adequate exemptions from this legislation for sports foods. It remains of utmost importance that sports and active nutrition businesses work together to address these and other regulatory challenges. ESSNA will keep working closely with policy makers to help them gain a better understanding of sports and active nutrition and will continue coordinating with stakeholders to secure fit for purpose legislation for these products”.

About HFSS advertising restrictions

In 2022, the UK Government formulated the policy for introducing advertising restrictions for HFSS products on TV and online. From 9th December to 31st March, the Government launched a public consultation to gather stakeholders’ views regarding the draft regulations that accompany primary legislation. The main purpose of the consultation was to ensure that the legal text in the secondary legislation is clear and unambiguous.