Exclusive: Thousands back petition against VAT on sports nutrition supplements ahead of London 2012

By Ben Burrows

Sports nutritionists and health food stores are uniting in a petition against government legislation following the budget – and have nearly 12,000 names in less than three days.

The petition is set-up to protest against George Osborne’s proposed VAT increase for a range of sports nutrition supplements.

It is in the form of an open letter to the Chancellor, and is aiming for 20,000 names.

Until now sports nutrition supplements such as protein shakes and meal replacement drinks were not subject to VAT as the principle ingredient they use is derived from milk.

Whey, the main ingredient in a wide range of products and supplements, is derived from milk and as such has until now been exempt from VAT.

The open letter says the move highlights ‘just how out of touch officials have become from the realities of the struggle to make ends meet in these challenging economic times.’

The letter goes on to suggest how damaging the move could be for a market which is one of the few which is actually growing in the current tough economic conditions.

It reads: “The move will push up prices and damage small, specialist manufacturers in particular.

“It will impact negatively on jobs and growth and undermine consumer safety by driving customers to source products from less reputable overseas suppliers through internet and mail order.”

Manchester-based sports nutrition supplier Myprotein, one of the UK’s largest, are supporting the petition.

A Myprotein spokesman said: “In an effort to postpone this recent legislation and to be given the chance to fairly debate with the Government as to the effect this tax rise will have both on sports nutrition users and on the wider issues of public health, Myprotein have made the decision to unite with other businesses within the sector through the UK Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance to present a united claim against the imposing of such a tax.”

The letter also highlights the potential controversy of introducing such a measure in an Olympic year: “In the Olympic year, the decision sends out the wrong message about the importance of sport and exercise in improving public health, and it is completely bizarre when milk-shakes, drinking chocolate and jaffa cakes all continue to be zero rated for VAT.”

Manchester-based sports nutrition supplier, Bodybuilding Warehouse, are extremely disappointed with Mr Osborne’s announcement.

They see the increase, which will take effect from October 1, as the government ‘pulling the carpet from beneath their feet.’

Founder Kieran Fisher told MM: “Many sports supplements are used as staple foods by our customers. For example, I eat six to eight meals per day, and a protein shake is simply more convenient and better value than eating yet more chicken breasts.

“Most people eat biscuits, crisps or other rubbish (that is not taxed) yet they plan to tax protein powder that’s just as much a staple food to thousands, if not millions, of healthy customers throughout the UK.”

Mr Fisher added: “Is taxing healthy lifestyle choices the best way to encourage people to take up exercise?”

Mr Osborne described the move as a way to close a tax loophole and bring producers – who had been able to avoid paying tax for many years – back into the tax bracket.

To view the open letter visit

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