Canada's Food Inspection Agency is preparing an investigation into the efficacy and safety of a range of sports nutrition products, including energy bars, isotonic sports drinks and weight loss formulas.
A secret report compiled by the CFIA last year raised questions about the safety of a number of these products, prompting the full scale investigation now being planned, according to a report in the Globe and Mail newspaper.
"The presence in many of these products of non-permitted substances with pharmacological activity, excessive levels of vitamins and minerals and undeclared common food allergens put the health of Canadians at risk," the paper said, citing the report.
"In addition, the substitution in these products of desirable and expensive ingredients with inexpensive ingredients is a common type of fraud that results in economic loss for consumers. Claims for health and performance benefits which cannot be substantiated are another form of fraud common among these products," it continued.
The paper said that no specific products were named in the report, but that it had concluded that the overall level of compliance within the Canadian market for spots and energy products was low, prompting the investigation.
No official statement has been issue by the CFIA concerning the investigation, but the paper cited a spokesman for the body who confirmed that tests were being carried out on a number of products, and that this could continue for some time.
With the US market for sports-related nutritional products estimated to be worth some $17 billion a year, according to the paper, it is no surprise that increasing numbers of companies are moving into this market.
But this has also brought with a rise in the number of fraudulent products, as producers seek to cash in on the trend by making fraudulent claims about efficacy - with the inevitable knock on effect of damaging the business of the many reputable companies.
Moreover, the scientific case for such products is still far from proven. A variety of recent studies of one popular sports supplement, creatine, have revealed a wide range of results - some suggest it is highly effective at replenishing muscle strength after exercise, while others have claimed that it is not effective at all.
Although this will be the first time that the Canadian authorities have tested energy bars and sports drinks, the CFIA has already investigated the sports supplement market. A 2001 test of 191 sports supplements found that just 5.8 per cent met federal requirements for ingredients, while just 4.4 per cent of a different sample of 226 products met the labeling requirements.