The European Commission (EC) has published a report finding that foods intended for sportspeople do not require special provisions under the regulation on food for specific groups (FSG Regulation), which will replace the framework on foodstuffs intended for particular nutritional uses (PARNUTs) on July 20, 2016.

Based on the results of an external study commissioned by the EC Directorate General for Health and Food Safety, the report explains that the FSG Regulation covers foods targeting vulnerable population groups— such as food for infants and young children, food for special medical purposes, and total diet replacement for weight control—but does not extend to sports foods intended for either (i) sportspeople who practice sport more than once a week, or (ii) lifestyle users who practice sport less than once a week or not at all.

“Thus, since a categorization as foodstuff intended for particular nutritional uses will no longer be available to sports food, this type of food will be exclusively governed by horizontal rules of food law,” states the report, which seeks to assess the outcome of this change. Noting that the retail value of this market exceeded €3.07 billion in 2014, the commission identifies three categories of sports foods: (i) “sports drinks”; (ii) “(protein-based) muscle strengthening, building and post exercise recovery products”; and (iii) “energy and performance boosting products and products for on-going supplementation of sportspeople.”

When classified as foods for normal consumption as opposed to PARNUTs, these products must comply with a number of horizontal food laws that govern, among other things, (i) nutrition and health claim labeling, (ii) the addition of vitamins, minerals and other substances to so-called “fortified food,” (iii) the provision of food information consumers, (iv) food supplements, and (v) novel foods. In particular, the report concludes that, under the new regime, sports foods formally classified as PARNUTs may need to adjust their labeling, composition or notification procedures to meet applicable horizontal food laws, which, in turn, may undergo further consideration by the EC. Some products will also be reclassified as food supplements or fortified foods under the new rules.

“The horizontal rules of food law provide the necessary safeguards for these products in terms of food safety, food composition, consumer information and legal certainty,” concludes the report. “As a result, not only all sports food products will be subject to the same legal requirements but they will have the same level of harmonization as other foods falling under the horizontal rules of food law. It is expected that, through the simplification and clarification of the legal framework applicable for sports food, legal certainty will be enhanced and the current fragmentation based on the different legal frameworks reduced.”