Contamination in Some Vegan Proteins and What to Choose Instead

Diet & Nutrition Inspiring People
Education Supplements
by Krysta Fioranelli, 22 March 2018

You may have heard that certain brands of vegan protein powders have recently been found to have high levels of toxicants including lead, arsenic, and cadmium in laboratory tests. And, perhaps you’ve also heard that you shouldn’t be too worried about vegan protein powder contaminants. But at Nuzest, we think that the public SHOULD be concerned about contamination in some vegan proteins. There have indeed been genuine issues with specific types of plant proteins containing excessive levels of heavy metals and chemical compounds.

But it is important to appreciate that this risk occurs whether or not a plant protein is certified organic, because the sources of the contamination are from the soil, the air and the manufacturing process. They are not linked to the method of production or whether or not pesticides or artificial fertilizers are used.

Much of the contaminant concerns is due to the source of plant proteins from regions where the soil contamination is high and where the water used in processing may also be contaminated with heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium and lead.

That’s right: even organic, all-natural vegan protein brands may produce contaminated protein powders due to the location of the agricultural plots.

In these instances, the heavy metals are taken up from the soil and accumulate from polluted environments. It is a particular problem with rice which absorbs the contaminants more readily. That is why here are Nuzest, we have deliberately chosen pea protein and to source that protein from Europe. The soil, air and water quality of Northern France are generally regarded to be very safe for growing and the process used for isolation is completely free of chemicals.

Consumers can feel confident they are selecting a safe vegan protein, rather than fear they are ingesting a protein powder tainted with contaminants.

There can also be contaminant risks when solvents, especially benzene-containing hexane, are used in the extraction process for protein powders.

However, there are vegan proteins that are truly “clean” and very low in heavy metals, contaminants and other nasties. Let’s take a closer look at what you should look for when selecting a “clean” vegan protein.

Table of Contents

Supply Chain

Every part of the supply chain and production process is important in determining how clean is the final product of a protein supplement. Clean Lean Protein represents the very highest quality of pea protein we can get anywhere in the world. At present, we cannot guarantee supply of organically certified plant-based protein of this quality. Our pea protein is also incredibly clean. It’s a very high purity isolate containing almost 90% pure protein produced from sustainably farmed peas from northern France.

We demand the highest quality and standards at every stage of the production process, from the source of our peas, to the extraction process of the isolate, to the levels of lectin in our isolate and the testing we use to reassure ourselves it’s a clean vegan protein source.

Our pea protein isolate comes from sustainably-cultivated European golden peas grown in Northern France. They are grown in soils that do not have high natural contents of heavy metals. Nor is the environment (air, water, soil) contaminated in any other way.

The French farmers who grow the peas do this exclusively for our vegan protein. They are committed to sustainable production methods that minimize any use of pesticides or artificial fertilizers. What’s more, from an environmental and water usage perspective, peas are among the most sustainable crops that can be grown.

Extraction Process

The extraction system used to remove the protein from the peas (that naturally contain around 25% protein) is also entirely water based, with absolutely no solvents or other chemicals being used, further reducing chances of contamination.

Any waste is converted to biofuel or animal feed and all water used is purified and recycled.

The effectiveness of this extraction process means Clean Lean Protein is lectin free. Lectins can occur in high amounts in peas and other legumes. They are naturally occurring compounds that act as a natural pesticide in the plant to reduce damage by insects. In people, over-exposure to lectins has the ability to damage the delicate intestinal wall, promoting inflammation and leaky gut. Some people are more sensitive than others to lectins and may suffer bloating and gas after eating legumes and other vegetables rich in lectins e.g. potatoes. Lectins are generally only broken down after hours of slow cooking.

Again, our protein offers a safer option than most other plant-based proteins on the market.

Regular Testing

From a consumer health point of view, the most important thing is the testing of the finished product. Nuzest protein and supplement products are tested quarterly for heavy metals, pesticides, solvents and other contaminants, including arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead. We can guarantee the finished products are safe.

Because we use BPA free packaging, we do not regularly test for BPA; there is no need. However, because of the recent publicity surrounding BPA and consumer concern, we will be introducing a BPA testing regime to satisfy our customers.

Clean Lean Protein is also entirely free of lectins. Our manufacturer tests for them regularly and the results are always negative, as the results are for pesticides, because the water extraction process is so effective, delivering such a high purity of protein and component amino acids. That purity is evident by the lack of strong smell or taste of “pea” in Clean Lean Protein.

When Nuzest says #NoBadStuff or no Nasties—We Mean It!

Put simply, we are a brand centered around quality. We put a lot of time, effort, expertise and investment into delivering the highest quality vegan products that make the most difference in people’s lives, at the best price – and as sustainably as possible. That’s what Clean Lean Protein and our entire product line are all about – it’s a notion that’s embedded deep in the DNA of our company’s founders and formulators – and we wouldn’t be using it ourselves if we didn’t feel the same way!

Cheers to sustainable, delicious, and worry-free plant-based protein!

Clean Label Project Study

To be fair to our competitors however, the recent study¹ highlighting the presence of heavy metals in many brands of protein in the United States by the Clean Label Project² has proven to be contentious. A recent article³ published by Cliff Harvey, PhD (Clinical Nutritionist & Researcher) in defense of those brands puts the study into perspective.



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