A recent test of 26 nutrition powders in the US showed that 24 of them lived up to their claims regarding carbohydrate, fats and proteins. But the study by independent testers ConsumerLab.com showed that some products contained unlabelled ingredients.
The findings show a marked improvement on an earlier study from ConsumerLab.com in October 2001 which claimed that 60 per cent of nutrition bars tested did not meet their label claims.
Nutrition powders and drinks, often consumed as shakes, are commonly used for dieting, general nutrition, body building and to enhance athletic performance. Annual sales of nutrition powders and drinks grew by 16 per cent in the past year to $971 million (€1.2bn) in traditional US retail channels alone according to data from IRI cited by ConsumerLab.com.
Two nutrition powders failed to pass ConsumerLab.com's review, because they contained the herbal ingredient stevia, a non-sugar sweetener which has not been approved for food use in the US due to inadequate safety data. Stevia can only be sold in the US as a dietary supplement. The two products that contained stevia were labelled as foods, not supplements.
Tod Cooperman, president of ConsumerLab.com, said:"Aside from the two products that should have been labelled as supplements because they contained stevia, the results were a welcome relief from the many problems we recently found with nutrition bars, where the full carbohydrate content was often hidden from consumers.
"The drinks and powders tend to contain about half the amount of carbohydrate and fat as nutrition bars and generally twice the amount of protein per serving. In fact, people using some of these powders and drinks as their primary source of nutrition should make sure that they are getting enough fat and carbohydrate from other foods."
Neither the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), nor any other federal or state agency, routinely tests nutrition powders and drinks for quality prior to sale, ConsumerLab.com said.
Of the 26 powders tested by ConsumerLab.com, 14 were marketed for their protein content, five for protein and general nutrition, one for just general nutrition, and six as diet meal-replacements. Seven of the products were labelled as 'dietary supplements,' indicating that they either contained ingredients restricted to supplements, or made claims regarding the effect of the product on the body.
The products were first evaluated to make sure that their listed ingredients and claims were in compliance with FDA labelling regulations. Products were then tested for the accuracy of their label claims regarding total calories, total carbohydrates, total sugars, total protein, total fat (including a breakout of saturated fat), sodium and cholesterol.After removing the two products found to contain stevia, ConsumerLab.com then tested the remaining 24, all of which, in contrast to the earlier test on nutrition bars, met its criteria.
A possible explanation for the relatively poor performance of the bars is the difficulty to formulate a bar that tastes good without using a fair amount of carbohydrates, while this is not the case with the powders and drinks, ConsumerLab.com said. "Consumer demand for low carbohydrate products may have lead some bar manufacturers to find ways of hiding carbohydrates in their labels - as half of the bars evaluated were found to have more carbohydrates than claimed," ConsumerLab.com said.
The 24 products which passed the ConsumerLab.com test included Nutrilite Protein Powder from Access Business Group International, Puritan's Pride Inspired By Nature Pure Soy Protein Isolate Powder, Spring Valley from Nature's Bounty, TwinLab Super Whey Fuel, and Protoplex Deluxe and Protoplex Lite from Vitamin World.
Full details of the products tested can be found on the ConsumerLab.com website