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Sports foods

(October 2020)

Sports foods are specially formulated to help people achieve specific nutritional or sporting performance goals. They are intended to supplement the diet of sports people rather than be the only or main source of nutrition. These products are regulated under Standard 2.9.4 – Formulated supplementary sports foods of the Food Standards Code (the Code).

To meet the specific dietary requirements of sports people, this Standard allows the addition of substances that are not permitted or are restricted in other foods including higher levels of some vitamins and minerals. This means sports foods are not suitable for children or pregnant women.

To help people make informed choices when it comes to sports foods, the label must:

  • state ‘formulated supplementary sports food’
  • indicate that they are not a sole source of nutrition and should be consumed in conjunction with a nutritious diet and an appropriate physical training or exercise program
  • provide directions stating the recommended quantity and frequency of intake of the food and state the recommended consumption of the food in one day
  • state that they are ‘Not suitable for children under 15 years of age or pregnant women: Should only be used under medical or dietetic supervision’.

The labels of sports foods must also provide the same information required on nearly all packaged foods. For example, a nutrition information panel and a list of the ingredients .

Sports people are advised to consume the sports food as recommended on the label. Information about ingredients or substances that are not permitted for specific sports can be found at individual sporting associations or the Sport Integrity Australia website.

Other foods used by sports people are not regulated specifically as sports foods, such as general purpose foods (e.g. pasta, bananas, meat) and electrolyte drinks.

The New Zealand Supplemented Food Standard allows for a separate category of foods that have a substance or substances added or that have been modified in some way to perform a physiological role beyond the provision of a simple nutritive requirement. Because of the Trans Tasman Mutual Recognition Arrangement, these supplemented foods can be sold in Australia.

Sports supplements – food or medicine?

In Australia and New Zealand, sports supplements can be regulated as either a food or a medicine. How they are regulated depends on the ingredients, types of claims made and form of the product (i.e. powder, bar or tablet).

While many sports supplements are legitimately marketed as foods, some contain ingredients that should not be included or they make claims that are not appropriate for foods. These products often present a higher risk to people.

In Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has declared that from 30 November 2020, certain sports supplements will be classified as therapeutic goods (medicines). The changes are being implemented to address the safety risks of certain sports supplements that have been available for sale as foods in Australia.

Sports supplements declared to be therapeutic goods will not be eligible to be imported into Australia from New Zealand under the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Arrangement.

Review of sports foods

We are currently reviewing Standard 2.9.4 – Formulated supplementary sports foods under Proposal P1010 following a request from the Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation in October 2018.

The request relates to a round table on sports supplements convened in July 2018 by the Australian Government Department of Health on behalf of the Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC)

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