Four sports foods trade associations launched a joint initiative on Monday (26 June) calling on the European Commission to amend EU food legislation and come up with harmonised rules to regulate their products and ensure their proper use and equal treatment in all member states.
Last year, the European Commission adopted a report on food sports and recognised that there were clear indications that sport has become mainstream in the population.
“Consequently, people carrying out sports activity can hardly be characterised as a specific vulnerable group of consumers but rather as a target group of the general population who is protected at an appropriate level by horizontal legislation,” the report noted, adding that such products increasingly often targeted the general population.
The report continued by saying that the horizontal rules of the EU food law provide the necessary safeguards for such products, in terms of food safety, composition, consumer information and legal certainty.
But according to the industry, the current framework does not ensure the appropriate use of these foods for the consumers, while the different interpretations of the EU food law at national level “create barriers to trade between member states”.
In other words, the industry claims that the diversity of national rules or interpretations on how these foods should be regulated is threatening the functioning of the EU single market.
“It creates operational burdens and hinders innovation for companies,” the joint communique reads, adding that this results in consumers not having access to the same or equivalent products in all member states.
The Commission report has recognised that sports food might include some specificities, which the Commission may take into account in the application and implementation of the horizontal rules in order to address them.
The four industries stressed that so far “no such measures have been taken”.
Commission: Member states can adopt rules
Roger Clarke, President of the Specialised Nutrition Europe (SNE), explained that sports foods are specifically formulated to meet the nutritional requirements in case of physical performance and recovery after exercise.
According to him, without a harmonised regulatory framework “consumers will not have access to the information they need to properly and safely use sports foods”.
Contacted by EURACTIV.com, a European Commission spokesperson said the EU law allows member states to adopt rules at national level in areas that are not harmonised at EU level, provided that such measures are compatible with the rules of the Treaty on the functioning of the EU (e.g. on the free circulation of goods).
“These measures must be justified and proportionate to the objective to be achieved […] they must be notified to the Commission, which then assesses their compatibility with EU law,” the EU official said. As explained in the report, if measures are adopted at the national level, the executive is ready to evaluate them in line with the applicable rules, the official added.