You buy organic food because you want to avoid toxic synthetic pesticides like glyphosate in your family’s meal, right? But what if some brands were including ingredients that were contaminated with pesticides that are prohibited in organic? Would you want to know who these brands are? We wanted to know what’s going on with organic vegan pea proteins.
With the help of The Detox Project, Mamavation is unleashing a shocking report on the top-selling protein powders on Amazon. The results were unexpected and very concerning to the organic industry. This shows us the potential dangers of a lack of testing in the global organic supply chain.
In order to combat fraud, Mamavation is recommending that organic brands test their ingredients before putting them into their product to ensure this doesn’t happen again. You’ve trusted Mamavation to cover investigations like safer cookware, safer sunscreen, and best organic mattresses, now join us as we share with you what we discovered about protein powders. And stick around for our recommended vegan protein powder brand.
Disclosure: This investigation is part of the new “What’s Really in Our Food & Supplements?” campaign and was done in partnership with The Detox Project. Mamavation has been consulting for The Detox Project since 2016.
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Popularity of Plant-Based Alternatives Has Fueled An Increase in Pea Protein. Problem is Insufficient Testing.
The Detox Project tested the top eight selling popular protein powders on Amazon. Most of these brands were vegan and contained pea protein, but they also tested brands with soy, whey, & collagen proteins as well. When we got the test results back, we were shocked.
The exact oppositive of what we thought would happen, happened.
Some of the organic pea protein brands’ products came back with higher levels of glyphosate than the conventional brands. This is very problematic because glyphosate is prohibited in the certified organic standards, meaning farmers are not allowed to spray glyphosate on their fields and manufacturers are not allowed to “swap” conventional crops for organic crops.
My first thought was, did we just find a massive problem in the global organic supply chain? The seriousness of the situation prompted The Detox Project to repeat the labs of two of the organic brands that contained pea protein with new batches. When we got those test results back they were WORSE than the first test results.
And that was the point by which we realized we had a very serious problem.
I get it. You’re shocked and mad. I am too. This part may be confusing or infuriating but it underlines a major issue with the organic industry in America–they don’t require enough lab testing.
People assume organic companies are testing their supply chain for problems, but it seems as if that is not happening. In an increasingly complex world, organic companies are relying on the global supply chain without the neutrality of lab testing to ensure quality. And as the organic industry grows, this is proving to be very unwise.
Now this isn’t true of ALL organic brands or all supply chains. Some brands are going above and beyond and utilizing a third party to acquire “clean” ingredients that are tested. But these ‘clean’ supplies are often more expensive and if a brand is trying to drive their costs down, they may opt for a cheaper supply chain without testing. In this sense, you get what you pay for.
Uncovering Massive Problems in the Organic Industry is Like Having a Meeting About Your Child With the Principal. It’s Not Pleasant, But You Love Them Enough to Help Them Grow. How Do We Go Forward? Testing.
Testing and finding contamination in organic products for me is like having a meeting with my son’s principal. It’s not a pleasant experience, and I’d rather not do it, but it’s important to help my child grow. So what do you do when you find massive problems in the global organic supply chain?
I’ve decided to expose the problem because I believe that the consumer has a right to know. Ultimately they are paying top dollar for food free from toxic synthetic pesticides like glyphosate. They deserve the truth so they can make an educated decision at the grocery store.
My hope is that, at the very least, ALL BRANDS containing organic pea protein powder test their products to see if their supply is contaminated with glyphosate and if it is, find a supplier that can provide truly clean ingredients.
The Organic Trade Association has started a program for brands to combat contamination in the industry, however, they have not yet recommend lab testing ingredients, which we believe has to start happening immediately if we all want to get to the bottom of this.
To be more precise, we suggest ALL BRANDS test their products down to the accepted level in Europe and Japan of 10 ppb (parts per billion)–below this level could just be traces or mistaken lab results. Europe has a zero tolerance to all pesticides in their organic supply chain down to 10 ppb–the United States should too!
Why Is Pea Protein Such a Problem in the Organic Industry? Desiccation & “Swapping” Increases The Amount of Glyphosate In Food.
Desiccation is a farming practice where the farmer sprays glyphosate on his fields just before harvest to dry out the crop sooner so it can be harvested sooner. Because of the spraying of glyphosate being so close to the time that it’s harvested, the levels of glyphosate will be higher in the food we eat. The Detox Project has consistently found contamination in products containing oats, wheat, some spices & legumes as it’s been testing the food supply in the U.S. and Europe for the last 2 years.
Another issue is “swapping out.” This is where a manufacturer will “swap” an organic ingredient for a conventional ingredient at the factory or try to pass off conventional for organic in some way. This is another way for the level of glyphosate or other pesticides to be high in the final ‘organic’ product.
But these issues have been known for a couple of years already. The American organic grain trade was infiltrated by eastern European cartels in 2017, who took advantage of the USDA’s lax organic enforcement policies. According to a report produced by watchdog organization Cornucopia, the USDA fell victim to the European Union clamping down on organic inspections. This shifted the weight of fraudulent organic shipments from former Soviet Bloc countries including Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Romania, and Russia to the United States and they passed inspections. Organic corn, soybeans, and other commodities were part of the shipments. Most of these crops likely went to feeding organic animals, however, they also contaminated some of our dinner plates in processed foods. Could this be part of the reason why some organic brands are testing positive for glyphosate? Possibly. Millions of pounds of shipments of contaminated organic food is something the USDA needs to do something about.
Some Brands Are Already Starting To Test for Pesticides & Get Certified Or Publish Their Lab Results. This Positive Trend Protects Consumers.
Some brands are already starting to test their products and establish more trust by getting certified or publicly sharing them. The Detox Project is an organization Mamavation has partnered with since 2016 to test and certify that brands have no glyphosate residue inside their product. They have created the “Glyphosate Residue Free” certification which was recently covered in Forbes, that can be attained by both conventional or organic brands proving they are clean.
Brands like MegaFood – supplements, FoodStirs – brownie mix & Chosen Foods – avocado oil have gotten “Glyphosate Residue Free” certification from the Detox Project. When brands work with the Detox Project, they have to allow them to pull a product off the shelf three times a year for testing to maintain their certification.
Another brand called Zego Foods specializing in allergy-friendly oatmeal & vegan protein powder has started publicly sharing their laboratory test results to prove they are clean. These types of brands are going above and beyond to safeguard their customers from the potential contamination of a global supply chain.
The Detox Project also helps brands behind the scenes to find ‘cleaner’ supplies, which is slowly helping to make may products ‘pesticide-free.’
The Results from The Detox Project Testing of Protein Powders
The Detox Project tested eight of the top-selling protein powders on Amazon as of March. The testing was done at a California Department of Food and Agriculture approved laboratory. The results were shocking and point to a real need for laboratory testing of pesticide residue in order to maintain the standards of organic and combat contamination within the industry. You can find the full results of the lab reports here.
Brands at a Red Level–High Concern
These brands had between 80 parts per billion (ppb) or more of glyphosate residue:
- Orgain Organic Protein Plant-Based Protein Powder, unflavored: USDA Organic (tested twice and both times in high concern)
- Anthony’s Premium Pea Protein made from yellow pea protein isolate from Germany, unflavored
Brands at a Yellow Level–Slight Concern
These brands had between 10 & 79 parts per billion (ppb) of glyphosate residue:
- Purely Inspired Organic Vegan Protein Powder, vanilla flavored: USDA Organic (unflavored, tested twice and both times in slight concern)
- Sunwarrior Warrior Blend Vegan Protein Powder with Peas & Hemp, vanilla flavored: USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified
- Naked Pea 1 Lb Pea Protein Isolate from North American Farms
Brands at a Green Level–No Concern
These brands had under 10 parts per billion (ppb) of glyphosate residue. They were all soy, dairy & collagen based.
- Sports Research Collagen Peptides Powder (unflavored)
- Bulksupplements Soy Protein Isolate Powder
- Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder (Chocolate)
Mamavation & The Detox Project Launches GoFundMe Campaign to Crowdfund Money for More Testing
After we finished this investigation, we decided it would be advantageous to do more testing of different categories of food to ensure consumers were getting what they paid for. With our first stab at testing, we found contamination in the global organic supply chain and came up with strategies for both consumers and brands to follow to ensure this doesn’t happen again. But we want to take this further and test more types of foods to alert the consumer as to which brands are selling a clean product. But in order to do this, we need your help.
Click here to donate some of your spare change to help us accomplish this! We want to start testing additional categories like the following:
- Pastas, rice & bread (gluten & non-gluten varieties)
- Snack foods like chips, crackers, etc.
- Meat alternatives
- Dairy products
- Baby food
- Meat & chicken (for pesticides & antibiotics)
- Condiments & spices
- Nut butters & spreads
With your help, we believe we can assist in cleaning up the global organic supply chain until the organic industry finally agrees and requires testing to ensure contamination isn’t happening.
Vegan Brands Mamavation Recommends Instead of Organic Pea Protein–Incha Sasha, Pumpkin & Hemp
As you can see, organic pea protein has a problem. So we recommend you don’t purchase it until we can repeat this study to know that it’s been cleaned up.
Until then, we’ve been recommending brands that use organic pumpkin, hemp and incha sasha instead because they are mild and don’t have any contamination issues that we’ve found so far. (We will let you know if we run into that!)
Our two favorite brands that are known by reputation for testing everything and revealing those results online are below.
- Perfect Supplements Vegan Protein Powder, containing pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds & sacha inchi ground up really fine for smoothies, cooking & baking.
- Zego Plant Protein made with 100% incha Sasha seeds.