You see them everyone and not just being drunk by sports people or those doing the gym thing. Yes, it is sports drinks and the general perception by many is that they are not only good for you but can improve performance as well.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is currently holding a public consultation as part of it’s process to determine whether to allow sports drinks labels to contain health claims.
To make a health claim a product must meet specific requirements, including criteria for energy, sodium, sugars and other important nutrients.
The Australian consumer group, Choice, is very concerned that if this proposal is approved after the FSANZ assessment there is the possibility that people may be misled into believing that “sports drinks are generally a healthy option”.
CHOICE spokesperson Tom Godfrey, said; “Rules about health claims were introduced last year to stop situations where you had clearly unhealthy products like sweets and chocolates making claims that they were 99 per cent fat free. There’s extensive research showing that any specific health claim gives a product a ‘halo effect’ and people believe the product is healthier overall. People should have the confidence that if a product has a health claim, then it is a healthier product. Creating a loophole for sports drinks is a backwards step.”
The Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) agrees with Choice and is asking for the proposal to be denied, especially considering the sugar content of these drinks compared to soft drinks, and the fact that most Australians do not meet the national physical activity guidelines of between 2.5 and 5 hours of moderate activity per week.
Jane Martin, Executive Manager of the OPC, said; “These new health claims are only relevant to serious sportspeople, however currently these products are marketed to, and consumed by, large numbers of Australians, who may already perceive them as a ‘healthier’ alternative. This change has potential to add to the impression that these products are beneficial for anyone who engages in sport.”
On the other hand, the Australian Beverages Council believes that the “minimal changes” to sports drink labelling being proposed will benefit consumers on the whole.
Geoff Parker, CEO of the Australian Beverages Council, said “The changes to the labelling of sports drinks (also known as Electrolyte drinks) proposed by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand are designed to provide consumers with information on the beverages they are consuming. Having scientifically substantiated claims clearly stated on the labels we hope will further assist consumers in making sure that particular types of drinks are right for them. It’s something the industry is very open about – that these types of sports drinks are absolutely for people who engage in intensive exercise.”
With these drinks intended for athletes and those doing exercise, now being widely available in supermarkets and other locations for purchase by anyone. FSANZ will have to weigh up the benefits of improved labelling for those who the drinks are designed for, with the wide availability of them to anyone.
Written by Rachelle Williams, The Green Food Safety Coach.