Right Of Reply: Healthy marketing for sports drinks opposed

Response to NZ Herald article  “'Healthy' marketing for sports drinks opposed

Original article NZ Herald, Wednesday Oct 1, 2014:

The opening sentence of the article which says “Proposed changes to food regulations that could see sports drinks marketed as healthy as healthy are being opposed by the Auckland Public Health Service” indicate that both the writer and the submitter might not understand the aim or substance of the FSANZ consultation.

The article is unbalanced as no one from FSANZ or industry features.

The proposed change is intended to permit electrolyte drinks to carry existing health claims and other health claims relating to their purpose (the rapid replacement of fluid, carbohydrates and electrolytes lost as a result of sustained strenuous physical activity) but only where these claims are either pre-approved or scientifically substantiated.

If a company is to make a claim there will have to be good science of a high academic standard to back the claim.

Electrolyte drinks are formulated to achieve a specific purpose (the rapid replacement of fluid, carbohydrates and electrolytes lost as a result of sustained strenuous physical activity). The health benefits of replacement of fluids are proven. Dehydration is a loss of fluids and electrolytes (important blood salts such as potassium and sodium). Vital organs, including the kidneys, brain, and heart, cannot function without a certain amount of fluids and electrolytes.

The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code recognises the special purpose of electrolyte drinks and, as a result, these drinks have a prescribed composition. Because of this special formulation, electrolyte drinks are required by the Code to include a declaration on the label setting out the average energy value, total carbohydrates, and the milligrams and millimoles of added minerals and electrolytes, per 100 mL of the electrolyte drink as ready to drink. This information supports consumer use.

Certain labelling claims relating to the purpose of electrolyte drinks are also currently permitted.

The FSANZ process is correcting an anomaly in the Code that has arisen since the application of Standard 1.2.8. Standard 1.2.8 allows other foods to make pre‑approved or scientifically sustained claims but the Standard would prevent such claims to be made by electrolyte drinks.

If this situation continued, not only would consumers not have the information they needed to choose electrolyte drinks that are specially formulated for a specific purpose, but there would be inconsistencies in the treatment of foods in the Code.

The claim that correcting this anomaly in the Code “poses a serious public health risk” is melodramatic.

As a smaller detail the comments from the academics were not published in the British Medical Journal as stated in the article. The paper was published in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

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