Heavy Metals, Lead Found in Popular Protein Bars


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Some of the most popular protein bars contain heavy metals, like lead, and fail to meet their label claims, according to a lab test by Labdoor, a 5-year-old San Francisco start up backed by billionaire Mark Cuban.

The company tested 20 of the most popular protein bars in the U.S. for protein content, calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugar, carbs, fiber and various vitamins to determine if their products met their label claims. All products were also subjected to heavy metal tests to determine whether they had dangerous levels of contaminants like lead.

PowerBar 20g, Vega Sport, Simply Protein, and Pure all exceeded California Prop 65’s limit of 0.5 mg of daily lead intake in one serving.

Vega Sport’s chocolate peanut butter, which is made by Vega, a plant-based startup that in 2015 was acquired by WhiteWave (NYSE:WWAV) – which is also one the world’s leading makers of plant-based foods and beverages—scored a D- and came in last place, according to Labdoor’s report. Vega Sport also failed three out of four screenings for heavy metals, including cadmium, lead, and mercury. The plant-based bar also scored lower than the category average for protein.

The companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But Neil Thanedar, Labdoor Founder & CEO, said the protein bars are derived from plant and animals sources, “which naturally pick up metals from the soil and environment where they grow.”

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“It's basically bioaccumulation - the same way fish get mercury,” he said. “Different metals affect the body in different ways. We focus on the four that can have harmful effects, ranging from cancer to birth defects, at very low amounts: arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead.”

He also said that since metals come from the soil, there is no proven advantage of organic vs. conventional methods for decreasing metal content in food.

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