(NaturalNews) Over the last month, Natural News rocked the dietary supplements industry by publishing laboratory research results which found significant levels of the heavy metals lead, cadmium and tungsten in popular rice protein products. The industry immediately responded to consumer concerns, and within days, industry leading companies like Garden of Life and SunWarrior agreed to adhere to a voluntary phase-in of heavy metals limits for rice protein products.
Why do these levels of heavy metals in rice protein matter? Because they are higher than the levels of arsenic found in rice by Consumer Reports in 2012 (Click here to see those lab results.) And yet, even at 100 - 500 parts per billion, arsenic levels were considered so alarming by Consumer Reports that they pressured the FDA to investigate the issue, ultimately declaring, "it's shameful the agency has not addressed this problem more systematically, leaving us to figure it out on our own to protect ourselves."
Consumers Union goes on to state, "On the international stage, a group advising the World Health Organization is meeting in 2014 to consider proposed arsenic standards for rice. Limits of 200 ppb (inorganic) for white rice and 300 ppb (total or inorganic) for brown rice are under discussion."
For the record, lead is widely considered substantially more toxic than arsenic, and lead bio-accumulates in the body far more easily than arsenic.
This is why responsible companies are actively seeking to substantially reduce lead concentrations in their products.
Vega joins industry-wide effort to adhere to voluntary limits
Vega, the company whose products are formulated by Brendan Brazier, is rising quickly in popularity among consumers. Today the company announced it was joining the Natural News heavy metals limits.
Mark Wilson, VP of Operations and head of Quality Assurance for Vega, offered Natural News this statement:
As the industry leader in plant-based nutritional products, Vega strongly believes in industry collaboration at all levels within the supply chain. We constantly review the performance of our suppliers to make sure that only the cleanest ingredients go into our products. We commend Mike Adams and Natural News for their commitment, and welcome the invitation to implement the alternate guidelines by joining their group. Every one of us in the industry benefits when we make the health and trust of our customers the top priority.
Here at Natural News, where food safety and transparency is of course our No. 1 mission, we welcome this announcement which now means the voluntary heavy metals limits previously announced have been embraced and adopted by manufacturers representing over 90% of the rice protein market in the United States and Canada.
From my point of view, I see this as yet another powerful demonstration of Vega's leadership in the industry and commitment to safe, high-quality products. While a few smaller companies in the rice protein market remain in a state of total denial about heavy metals in their products, all the top companies that seem most likely to experience long-term success in the marketplace have graciously and rapidly responded in the positive.
After all, who wouldn't want to enhance trust with customers and take a firm position on the side of product safety and the public good?
Here's what's really fascinating: Vega's products already tested very clean!
Although I tested Vega's "protein smoothie" product early on and found it to be remarkably low in heavy metals, their more mainstream protein products didn't get tested until recently. (For the record, we don't get paid to conduct this testing. We do it all for free and buy all these products on our own dime. So testing takes time, money and effort. The laboratory required to conduct this testing cost about a million dollars to set up.)
Vega's "Viva Vanilla" Protein Smoothie tested at less than 1/10th the lead levels of the highest concentrations we found in rice protein products. Cadmium levels were even lower at around 1/20th. Mercury was virtually zero.
Part of the explanation for this is that Vega made a very interesting formulation decision early on to use protein blends instead of pure rice protein. In all the protein products we've tested, rice protein has always tested the highest -- by far -- in heavy metals. But Vega uses blends that include pea protein, sacha inchi protein and hemp seed protein. Because all three of these ingredients tend to have substantially lower metals concentrations than the rice protein we've tested, it's no surprise to see Vega products reflecting this.
In fact, based on our new Low Heavy Metals Verified ratings system, Vega's Protein Smoothie would rate "A++" if not for the copper, which brings it to a still-respectable "A" rating. (Some of the pure rice protein products we tested rate "B" or even "C" on this scale.)
The Vega Pre-Workout Energizer (Acai Berry flavor) tested even cleaner and actually does achieve a full A++ rating, according to this scale. It's not really a protein product, however, and it's made from a lot of coconut which almost always tests clean in our lab tests. So you can't really compare this straight across to a protein product, as this "Pre-Workout Energizer" is in a category all its own.
Vega's Performance Protein tested remarkably clean in our tests so far, clocking in well under the voluntary limits the company is agreeing to. In fact, the data so far show that Vega won't have to reformulate anything at all, and this very likely means that all the Vega proteins on the shelves right now almost certainly meet or beat the voluntary limits set forth by Natural News.
Why I have confidence in Vega products
For the record, I should say that all the companies which have met these guidelines have been very professional, responsive and responsible. The Garden of Life executive I spoke with on this issue is a real gentleman and that company is lucky to have him. SunWarrior's top executives are incredibly passionate about superfood proteins and genuinely dedicated to their cause. Living Fuel and Boku Superfood founders are also incredibly dedicated to ethical, responsible formulations that deliver very high nutritional value at affordable prices. I'm also spoken with executives at HealthForce and Nutribiotic, both of which have agreed to join the voluntary limits (an official announcement is coming soon).
What's special and unique about Vega's products, however, is that everything we've tested from their company already meets or beat the voluntary limits, whereas many products from some other companies are actually "in transition" with an aim to meet those limits in time. Although I'm optimistic that the entire industry will meet the limits well ahead of the July 1, 2015 target date which was previously announced, it seems that all the Vega products already on the shelves and "in the supply pipeline," so to speak, are already compliant.
Health Canada more strict than U.S. regulators
Perhaps this is because Vega is a Canadian company. When I spoke to executives there, they did confirm that Health Canada requirements for product composition are very, very strict... far more strict than the FDA which has no heavy metals limits whatsoever. I also believe that a very low heavy metals composition is in alignment with the principles and ethics of Vega product formulator Brendan Brazier. Although I've never met Brendan, he seems to be genuinely passionate about creating truly unique, innovative and incredibly clean formulations for the company.
All of Vega's products are subjected to far more scrutiny than U.S. companies. Health Canada is simply more stringent than the FDA when it comes to testing dietary supplements. Remember when I found over 10 ppm of the heavy metal tungsten in rice protein products? (See tungsten results chart here.) Nobody in the USA -- not even the FDA -- was testing products for tungsten. So in a very real sense, Canadian companies are subjected to extra regulatory scrutiny compared to USA companies.
Truth be told, regulation of the composition of natural products is incredibly lax in the USA. The FDA spends a lot of time on label claims regulations, and marketing claims regulations, but very little time actually testing products for contaminants. That's why Natural News is playing such an important role in all this, identifying heavy metals in natural products which even the FDA isn't testing. We're also the first in the industry to roll out a voluntary heavy metals standard, which you can see now at:
In addition to his lab work, Adams is also the (non-paid) executive director of the non-profit Consumer Wellness Center (CWC), an organization that redirects 100% of its donations receipts to grant programs that teach children and women how to grow their own food or vastly improve their nutrition. Click here to see some of the CWC success stories.
With a background in science and software technology, Adams is the original founder of the email newsletter technology company known as Arial Software. Using his technical experience combined with his love for natural health, Adams developed and deployed the content management system currently driving NaturalNews.com. He also engineered the high-level statistical algorithms that power SCIENCE.naturalnews.com, a massive research resource now featuring over 10 million scientific studies.