Change in status for sports foods on the horizon
The term "sports foods" is commonly used to refer to food which is aimed at people who take part in sports activity. Depending on how it is marketed, sports food at the moment can fall under one of two different regulatory regimes, being classified either as food for normal consumption regulated by general food law or as a foodstuff intended for particular nutritional uses, regulated by Directive 2009/39/EC.
When the Directive was originally made, it was envisaged that specific new laws would be made to flesh out the basic requirements imposed by the Directive on sports foods. However, these were never made and it was left to individual member states to decide whether and if so how to regulate sports foods over and above the basic requirements. The UK did not impose any additional requirements.
On 20 July 2016, however, changes to the Directive come into force. One of those changes has the effect of removing all sports food, however it is marketed, from being regulated as a food for a particular nutritional use; instead a sports food will be regulated as any other food, with additional regulation in the event that it makes a health claim.
There are three consequences arising from this.
The first, which applies to all sports food marketed in the UK, is that the prescriptive labelling requirements of the Directive relating to nutrition and composition will be abolished and all sports food will have to comply with the labelling requirements of the Food Information for Consumers Regulation (Reg. EU 1169/2011).
The second applies to all sports food marketed in the UK in such a way that it would have been regulated by the Directive rules (i.e. as being particularly suitable for those taking part in sport and expending intense muscular effort). Under the Directive rules, the suitability of the food for the claimed nutritional purpose has to be indicated, but, crucially, does not require authorisation as a health claim. From 20 July, however, such health claims will need authorisation under the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (Reg. (EC) 1924/2006). According to the European Commission, there are only seven authorised health claims targeting sportspeople at the present time.
The third consequence applies to sports food manufactured in the UK. Currently, any manufacturer wishing to export sports food to any of the nine member states which have imposed notification requirements for sports foods marketed as such to their domestic markets would have to undertake the notification procedure; from 20 July, however, such notifications become redundant and sports foods become freely marketable, subject to compliance with the general law relating to food safety, food labelling and nutrition and health claims.