Protein Powders Lack Protein, Ripping Off Athletes

MusclePharm_Arnold_Iron_Mass

A growing number of companies are accused of selling workout supplements spiked with cheap fillers that they’re passing off as protein.

Bodybuilders, dieters, and athletes want the key macronutrient to help build or keep muscle, and have built protein sports supplements into a $7 billion industry, according to Euromonitor. But companies including pharmacy giant CVS Health and MusclePharm, the $110 million (sales) company that uses former Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger in its advertising, may be selling products where the protein content falls far below what’s on the label, according to a spate of lawsuits that have cropped up over the past eight months. “Arnold Schwarzenegger Series Iron Mass,” for instance, contains half the protein stated on its label, according to third party testing in one lawsuit; Schwarzenegger is not named as a defendant in the complaint.

MusclePharm, which was sued in a California federal court in late January by Ram, Olson, Cereghino and Kopczynski, is only the most recent company under attack for allegedly misleading their customers about just how much protein their products contain.

Many others are being taken to task in the wave of cases spearheaded mainly by Michigan law firm Barbat, Mansour and Suciu, which had products sold by an array of supplement companies tested by a third-party lab. Results showed some products’ labels significantly overstated the protein content, slipping in amino acids and other substances and claiming them as protein on their labels.

“I believe it is a pretty simple, cut and dry issue: We allege in these lawsuits that these companies use misleading language on the label regarding the amount of actual protein in the products, and the consumers are the ones that pay. That’s the bottom line,” says Nick Suciu, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs on many of the lawsuits. “I began developing the cases because customers have been misled by this practice for years.”

But the accused supplement sellers say they’re doing nothing wrong.

“We are confident that the allegations are without merit and MusclePharm will defend the lawsuit vigorously,” said Kalina Pagano, MusclePharm’s executive vice president and general counsel. CVS Health declined to comment on the pending litigation, but have filed a motion to dismiss the case. They and other companies contend the practice – called “protein spiking” or “amino spiking” in industry parlance — comports with FDA rules.

The FDA, which declined to comment on specific lawsuits, denounced the practice.

“FDA requires that dietary supplements be labeled in a manner that is truthful and not misleading. With regard to the labeling of protein content, FDA’s expectation for proper nutrition labeling is that firms will evaluate the protein content from actual protein sources—not other nitrogen-containing ingredients such as individual amino acids—and label the products consistent with the results of such evaluations,” said FDA press officer Jennifer Dooren.

Dooren added that FDA regulations for dietary supplements specifically require that “protein shall not be declared on labels of products that, other than ingredients added solely for technological reasons, contain only individual amino acids.”

WHAT LAB TESTS REVEAL

Workout supplements vary in price by brand, but 5 pound tubs or bags of protein-based products often retail for more than $50 a tub. A supplement maker can buy wholesale whey protein concentrate – the most popular kind – for roughly $5 – $6 per pound.

But third-party tests, attached to some of the lawsuits, show some companies also fill the tubs with far cheaper free form amino acids like glycine, taurine or leucine as well as other substances like creatine monohydrate, and then portray them as grams of protein on the products’ labels. Certain amino acids are considered the building blocks to protein but they are not protein by themselves, nor do they have the same benefits as complete proteins.

These filler substances can cost less than $1 per pound, allowing companies to undercut competition with lower prices and dupe price-sensitive customers in the process.

The lab tests commissioned by Suciu’s firm and others show the breakdown of what’s really inside some of these supplements. Companies whose products were tested and subsequently sued include but are not limited to: Giant Sports, MusclePharm, CVS Health, 4 Dimension Nutrition, NBTY and Inner Armour.

For instance, test results showed “Giant Delicious Protein Blend” made by privately held Giant Sports contains only 12 grams of the 27 grams of “High Quality Protein” it advertises, only 44% of the stated amount. Instead, the powdered blend is loaded with leucine, isoleucine, valine, glycine, betaine, taurine and creatine monohydrate. Moreover, glycine is not included on the label nor the ingredient list, which would make it a misbranded product and illegal to sell according to Food and Drug Administration rules. None of these substances is harmful — creatine monohydrate on its own is perhaps the most popular workout supplement behind protein — but neither are they what customers are paying for.

Giant Sports declined requests for comment.

Similarly, a lab test of MusclePharm’s “Arnold Scharzenegger Series Iron Mass” revealed that just 19 of the promised 40 grams of protein were present, according to exhibits in the lawsuit. Prior to the lab test results, MusclePharm denied over Twitter that it spiked its products.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexmorrell/2015/03/12/lawsuits-say-protein-powders-lack-protein-ripping-off-athletes/

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