Doubt has been cast over claims made by sports nutrition supplement brand USN following tests which reveal there is 17 percent less protein than stated for one of its products.
The USN (Ultimate Sports Nutrition) 100% Whey Protein packaging states the product contains 75.1 grams of protein per 100 grams, but protein analysis tests conducted at Stellenbosch University revealed only 62.4 grams per 100 grams.
Three tests were conducted, resulting in an average of 62.4 grams per 100 grams of protein in the product, a variance of a 16.9 percent.
Although the tests conducted for Dr Harris Steinman, director of Food and Allergy Consulting and Testing Services (FACTS) took place in July 2012, they have come to light due to a new online consumer initiative called e-label which is beta-testing its mobile application.
Five years in the making so far, the e-label initiative’s eventual aim is to collate information on all available foodstuffs so that, by using a smartphone application, consumers can check on manufacturer’s claims by simply scanning the product barcode after downloading the app from www.elabel.org
E-label content coordinator Mark Fox said they have started by focussing on products sold at Woolworths – largely to hold the retailer accountable to their ‘Good Food Journey’ branding – but will eventually include products sold at all other South African retailers.
At present, he said, in partnership with a number of civil society organisations they had managed to collate information on about 75 percent of all foodstuffs sold by Woolworths, but only about 10 percent of those products had sufficient “checkable” information on them at this stage.
The end goal, however, was to enable consumers to scan a product barcode and immediately access a host of information on whether or not claims such as ‘organic’ or ‘free range’ were indeed true.
Information on the source and supply chain would also be available.
The USN 100% Whey Protein is one of the products that have already been flagged for spurious manufacturer’s claims.
In addition to the discrepancy in the amount of protein per gram, a sustainability researcher, organic living activist and university student have questioned the origins of the soya and milk USN sources.
Simeon Lilenstein from Organic Living (all e-label contributors have to post their names and positions) raised concerns of use of the non-nutritive sweetener sucralose, made predominantly of “synthetic ingredients”.
USN’s public relations account director Miles Donohoe, said USN received a similar complaint on the product from the ASA earlier this year.
Donohoe, said the test results from South African laboratories differed from that of USN’s Certifcates of Analyses from their United States and European laboratories and this was because different methodologies were being used, accounting for the difference in results.
“Due to the US results being more accurate, in our opinion, we decided to keep using these on whey-containing product labels,” stated Donohoe.
He said the Stellenbosch University laboratory results “should not be regarded as legitimate” as the laboratory was not accredited with the South African National Accreditation System
Regarding other concerns, the said the product did not contain “any added soy”, although soy lecithin was used in the processing of the whey concentrate, which was free of Genetically Modified Organisms.
As for Sucralose, he said it was approved by the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) and they would continue to use it until or unless such time as it was banned.
Discovery Health Professor of Exercise and Sports Science at the University of Cape Town, Tim Noakes, said the difference in protein amount would not have notable effect for athletes.
This, said Noakes, was because the product is “not working anyway”, the 17 percent difference was “17 percent of nothing”.
Not a fan of supplements, he said people should be eating real food.
If athletes wanted more protein, they should eat more eggs, fish and meat, not “falsified nutrients”.
“We need to eat real food to get all the nutrients we need, not what the manufacturers decide we need,” said Noakes.
Whey was a waste product of skimmed milk so if people wanted whey protein, they should rather drink full cream milk. – Steve Kretzmann