“The debate over specific legislation versus general food law has been on-going for over 10 years,” said Suzane Leser, vice-chair of the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA) and nutrition manager at whey protein supplier Volac.
“We now need to move towards resolution and closure to give businesses legal certainty. Without this, the internal market in Europe cannot function adequately and businesses cannot communicate consistent messages to consumers.”
Members of the European Council and European Parliament on November 14 agreed a final draft of how a range of specialist foods will in the future be governed under general food law, something most specialist food sectors agree with.
But it appears the final legal destiny of the €3.45bn European sports foods market and others like children’s milk will not be confirmed until further European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and European Commission assessments are completed, something groups like ESSNA accept as an inevitable part of the process.
“This is an acceptable solution,” Leser added. “It means the Commission will have the opportunity to evaluate how the needs of sports people can be taken into account under general food law. We hope the Commission concludes that amendments to the general food law are what is needed.”
It is thought EFSA will deliver its verdicts in 2013. The EC has been handed two years to deliver its own assessment on whether general food law can deal with sports foods, drinks and supplements. The EC already issued an opinion that this was the case in 2011.
ESSNA spelled out its views at a recent PARNUTS (foods for particular nutritional purposes) conference, where it also alluded to issues with EU nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR), especially regarding general versus niche populations.
“…the adoption process failed to reflect the needs of sports people as a sub-group of the general population,” Leser said.
“Some recent or current examples include: Removing EFSA approval for the health claim for sodium and maintenance of normal muscle function; sport specific claims on caffeine, which got EFSA approval but are currently under discussion and due to be voted on the 10th December; lack of recognition of the importance of protein quality; and finally, the proposed nutrition claim ‘high energy’ which has been declined.”
Leser added: “Another concern regarding the Food Information Regulation is that sodium is now to be declared as salt on labels in all cases. Reference to sodium is of particular importance to sports people.“
The new laws abolish the notion of dietetic foods as these have been cannibalised by functional food offerings administered by other legislation including gluten-free foods, sports foods and slimming products.
The PARNUTs food sector that includes infant nutrition represents between 1 to 2% of the European food market and is pegged at around €24bn.