Italy has run into problems over its laws governing the sports drinks market and is now facing court action by the European Commission.

The food website today reported that the EC had taken Italy to the European Court of Justice because the country's laws were a barrier to free trade as set out in the EU.

The EU has no laws governing the sports drink market but Italy insists that any product intended for intense muscular effort must obtain prior authorisation.

As this rule applies to domestic and imported products the Italian legislation contravenes free trade. Under EU rules goods manufactured or marketed in one member state must be allowed to move freely into other states in the Union.

The Commission went to the Court of Justice after Italy failed to respond to an earlier complaint made in July 2001.

The Commission is arguing that Italy's legislation is not needed to protect public health or consumer interests and that Italy had failed to give good reason to justify the extra cost to producers who were operating elsewhere in the EU.