Directive 2009/39/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, which lays down rules on foodstuffs intended for particular nutritional uses (so-called PARNUTs), will be repealed on 20 July 2016. This will have a crucial impact on the food market as the classification of some products will change.

PARNUTs are not considered standard foodstuffs as they aim to fulfill particular nutritional needs of consumers owing to their special composition or manufacturing process. They are thus clearly distinguishable from foodstuffs for normal consumption and are governed by separate legal regulations but soon this is about to change.

The new EU Regulation 609/2013 (so called FSG Regulation) which repeals directive 2009/39/EC will abolish the traditional PARNUTs classification and will distinguish four categories of products for specific groups (so-called FSG), covering foods for certain vulnerable groups of population:

  1. Infant formula and follow-on formula;
  2. Processed cereal-based food and baby food;
  3. Food for special medical purposes;
  4. Total diet replacement for weight control.

This means that two categories of products usually classified as PARNUTs are out of the scope of the FSG Regulation:

  • Food intended for sports people, and
  • Milk-based drinks and similar products intended for young children (this category should not be mistaken with infant formula and follow-on formula suitable for children between 0-12 months).

Currently, 17 Member States and Norway classify young-child formula as PARNUTs and 10 Member States classify young-child formula as a different type of food. In the case of food intended for sports people, nine of the 24 Member States which replied to the Commission’s survey identified the existence of national legislation covering sports food.

Pursuant to Articles 12 and 13 of the FSG Regulation, by 20 July 2015 the Commission, after consulting EFSA, should present to the European Parliament and Council reports on the necessity (if any) of special provisions for food for young children and sports food, and if necessary such reports should be accompanied with appropriate legislative proposals. The Commission has not met this deadline, which has caused uncertainty and confusion in many countries in Europe as the legal status of these two groups of products may be unclear after the abolition of Directive 2009/39/EC. In March and June 2016 respectively, the Commission finally issued the awaited reports but at the same time, decided not to present any new legislative proposals regarding these matters. Furthermore, reports provide that many developments after 2016 cannot be foreseen at this stage given that no concrete information exists on how consumers and businesses will react to the new FSG Regulation at the national level.

As a result, no regulatory changes are expected in those Member States that already classify young-child formulae and sports foods as standard food. However, from 20 July 2016 other Member States should stop qualifying sports food and milk-based drinks as PARNUTs and will have to comply with horizontal rules of food law. Where applicable, such products may also have the status of fortified food or dietary supplements. These far-reaching changes to the legal framework will have a significant impact on the business of food operators - they will have to adjust their products to the new requirements. These adjustments include products’ labelling and composition.

It is estimated that the EU market for sports nutrition and drinks was worth EUR 3.07 billion in 2014 (retail value) and the market for food for young children – more than EUR 500 million.

Find more information on the FSG Regulation here.