The recommendations, in line with those issued last month by the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), aim to prevent overstating of protein on product labels.
“People asked, why pick protein? There are plenty of potential areas we could have looked at for a voluntary program,” Steve Mister, CRN’s president and CEO, told NutraIngredients-USA. “But protein is growing quickly and it’s attractive to consumers right now, so it makes sense to get in there and set up best practices to protect the industry from potentially getting it wrong. When it’s a hot growth area, the consequences of getting it wrong are that much greater.”
CRN’s recommendations, called the CRN Guidelines for Labeling of Protein in Dietary Supplements and Functional Foods , provide product manufacturers and marketers with a method to calculate the amount of protein to be declared in nutrition labeling and advise that these calculations should only include proteins that, by definition, consist of a chain of amino acids connected by peptide bonds.
Although the FDA’s labeling regulations specify that the amount of protein in foods and supplements should be calculated as a factor of nitrogen content, they don’t define the sources of nitrogen that should be included in such calculations. CRN advises that these substances, including taurine and creatine, not be counted toward total protein content on product labels, as “the nitrogen contained in these compounds does not play a direct role in protein nutrition,” according to the guidelines.
CRN and AHPA worked together to develop their respective programs to make it easier for companies to voluntarily comply.
The discussion was initiated about two years ago, on the heels of a report uncovering melamine-tainted infant formula in the market. “That was a case where people were deliberately putting melamine, a hazardous substance, in products to boost their nitrogen content,” Mister said. “Our situation is different in that we’re talking about legitimate ingredients.”
Indeed, manufacturers of combination products, especially in sports nutrition, often combine whey protein with other amino acids, “not thinking about fact that these are also high in nitrogen,” he said. Then when they test the finished product, “they get the nitrogen count, falsely assume it’s all coming from whey protein and they end up overstating how much protein is in the product.”
CRN’s guidelines were ratified by its board of directors on April 24. The trade group recommends that members comply no later than 12 months from that date. “We want to give people time to make sure they’ve gone back and accounted for this. A year is more than enough time,” Mister added.