23 April 2018.  The European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA) has tackled 406 cases of non-compliant sports nutrition products, such as those that mislead consumers or include banned doping substances, in the last five years as part of its efforts to ensure consumer safety and protect the integrity of the industry.

The work is part of ESSNA’s campaign to eradicate sports nutrition products that do not abide by the rules and regulations put in place for the protection of consumers. Since the campaign’s launch in 2013, ESSNA has worked with various stakeholders and enforcement authorities to develop frameworks, guidelines and reporting systems that can successfully ‘police’ the industry.

Of the 406 alerts that were reported to ESSNA, 66 cases were resolved informally as a direct result of ESSNA contacting the offending company, with 16 of those committing to relabeling or reformulating the product in line with EU law, and 26 agreeing to completely withdraw the product in question from the market. 86 of the cases were escalated to the relevant enforcement authorities, including the UK Food Standards Agency and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, the Italian Ministry of Health, the Portuguese Economic and Food Safety Authority, and the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority, among many others. The remaining alerts are currently still being processed.

As part of this campaign ESSNA urges anyone who might be aware of illegal activity by sports nutrition organisations to step forward and report them. Products can be reported via a dedicated form on ESSNA’s website which allows individuals to anonymously bring to its attention non-compliant activity taking place anywhere in Europe. It has also launched a Facebook page to encourage consumers to report products they come across on the social media platform, which sees a high number of sales of sports nutrition products every day.

Dr Adam Carey, Chair of ESSNA said:

“We are delighted with the progress we’ve made so far. Rules and regulations around sports nutrition are stringent and the majority of the industry seeks to comply – but there is, unfortunately, a problem of monitoring and enforcement. This is why we were happy to step into that void and act as a connector between the industry and the enforcement authorities, filling in the gaps where they lack resources and crucial intelligence about the sector. Our campaign to date has been extremely successful and we’re thrilled with the response we’ve received from the industry, the public, the law-makers and the enforcement authorities who are crucial to this process.

“But this campaign is important for so many more reasons: the fact is, not only are non-compliant products misleading and potentially dangerous to consumers, they also affect the integrity and reputation of our industry. As with any other sector, the unfortunate reality is that a small but persistent minority of companies refuse to abide by European laws that cover their products, often misleading their customers to gain a commercial advantage, endangering them by using ingredients whereby the safety is questionable, and ruining the reputation of the sector. We must work together to eliminate our industry of these types of charlatans from our industry and ensure we are collectively operating in the most responsible manner possible.”

“We urge the industry to keep an eye out and report to us any product they suspect of being illegal, and we urge the public to make sure they’re avoiding these products and only buying their supplements from reputable retailers. You can look for the ESSNA trademark or check our website for a list of do’s and don’ts, and how to identify dodgy products while you shop.”

A UK Food Standards Agency spokesperson said:

“The Food Standards Agency is responsible for the enforcement of legislation relating to food supplements. Reducing the levels of non-compliant food supplements on the market is an integral part of our work, requiring close collaboration with Local Authorities and industry bodies such as ESSNA. We welcome the work undertaken by ESSNA in tackling non-compliance which will support consumer protection and help maintain a level playing field for responsible food business operators.”

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 protects consumers and does not adversely affect the industry. ESSNA also works with authorities and other trade associations across the food industry to monitor and report irresponsible companies that flout EU law and may put consumers at potential risk from dangerous products.