The European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA) has warned that the European Commission’s recent revised legislation will result in a spread of misinformation about specialist products amongst consumers, in its response to the Inception Impact Assessment on the Proposal for a revision of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers (FIC).
In the proposal for the FIC revision, the Commission suggests the setting of nutrient profiles, to restrict the promotion of foods that are high in fats, sugars and/or salt. ESSNA understands the advice to the general population is to reduce consumption of sugars and salts and it supports the European Commission’s objectives to facilitate the shift to healthy and sustainable diets.
However, as ESSNA notes in its response, the introduction of nutrient profiles is not suited for specialist products and would not improve the understanding of sports nutrition food products. Contrary to the objective of the Commission, the respective proposal would instead prevent consumers from making healthy, informed choices. Therefore, ESSNA urges the Commission to assess appropriate exemptions for food intended for sportspeople.
As ESSNA highlights in its response, the benefits of sports nutrition products are well documented in scientific literature. Setting nutrient profiles on these products would mean that the latter will not be allowed to bear health claims, therefore depriving consumers of valuable information necessary to make an informed choice about their healthy eating habits.
ESSNA stresses that the promotion of active lifestyles and consumer education around nutrition are equally important to consumers’ information on food products, which is clearer than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. However ESSNA warns that this objective will be hindered if the Commission decides to include sports nutrition products in the nutrient profiles regulation and front of pack nutrition labelling. This is because these products are intended for use by adults who lead an active lifestyle and aim to meet specific dietary needs of people performing exercise. Therefore, removing information on the benefits of sports nutrition products, through nutrient profiles, would create major obstacles for European citizens looking to adapt to healthier and more active lifestyles.
Dr Adam Carey, Chair of ESSNA, 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. In the case of sports nutrition products, the existing regulatory framework provides sufficient information for consumers to make informed choices. The Commission’s proposal on nutrient profiles would not improve the respective legislation. Rather it would pose a barrier to the EU’s strategy to promote education on nutrition. For instance, sports nutrition products are often high in protein, the health benefits of which, such as maintenance of normal bones, are well established. Setting nutrient profiles on these products would prevent consumers from being informed on these benefits. Therefore, it is essential that the Commission considers introducing exemptions for food intended for sportspeople.
Proposed regulation such as this 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. It is crucial that this is taken into account by the Commission when considering major changes to legislation.”
In the Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on food intended for sportspeople the Commission states that sports food may include some element of specificity which may have to be taken into account in the application and implementation of the horizontal rules. In addition, the Commission notes that “the possibility to apply specific conditions to certain categories of food will be explored”. ESSNA stresses that, in respect to nutrient profiles and front of pack nutrition labelling, this is the case of sports nutrition products and that the Commission should consider the specificities of these products, as outlined above.
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