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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.”
“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.
Other poor performers were Power Crunch Protein bar, ranking in at #19 and Nature Valley Protein bar, which is owned by General Mills (NYSE:GIS), coming in at #18. They found that Power Crunch had a lower category average for protein and had half the calcium and iron it claimed. Nature Valley Protein also had lower than category average for protein and some label accuracy issues with double the vitamin A it claimed it had.
Mike Siemienas, Manager of Brand Media Relations for General Mills told FOXBusiness.com that, “we stand behind our products and the accuracy of our labels.”
Some of the best performers were Quest Nutrition, Premier Protein, thinkThin bars which all scored an A-.
Thanedar said the company did not reach out to any of the brands prior to posting the results but it is open to sharing results with the companies.
Thanedar says when choosing a protein bar, consumers should find out about specific nutrients because some bars have high sugar and/or sodium, while others are high in saturated fat.
Vega’s spokesperson provided FOXBusiness.com with the following statement.
At Vega, the trust and safety of our customers is our top priority. Rest assured, we have a robust Quality Assurance program that includes testing for heavy metals and would not release any product if it didn't meet our high quality standards. We adhere to all government regulations and stand behind the quality of our Vega Sport Protein Bar.