Health Alert: Potentially Harmful Vegetarian Hot Dogs and Power Bars

Every day in the United States there are many consumers who may unknowingly consume products with potentially hazardous ingredients – namely, isolated soy protein, soy protein isolate, soy protein concentrate etc. This ingredient is found in a wide range of products such as vegetarian hot dogs, vegetarian burgers, vegetarian cheeses, power bars, protein powders, and soy drinks. There are two potential hazards. One is that consumers may unknowingly be consuming soy protein manufactured in China and thus be running the risk of eating foods that are contaminated. The second hazard is that regardless of where the isolated soy protein is from, this is not a healthy ingredient.

Here are the facts:

  • There is a little-known loophole in the consumer protection rules. In general, food products from foreign countries have to be labeled with their country of origin. Thus olive oil from Italy is marked as a product of Italy. There are several big exceptions to the labeling requirement. One is for products that undergo a “substantial transformation.” For example, a grape jelly manufacturer in the United States may buy Chilean grapes and not have to label their product as having a Chilean origin. Similarly, if a U.S maker uses imported isolated soy protein in their processed products, since the product undergoes a “substantial transformation,” the U.S. producer need not label their products as having imported ingredients.
  • The Chinese are manufacturers and exporters of isolated soy protein. Since there was widespread, deliberate adulteration of vegetable proteins with toxic melamine used in pet food products; one must approach with skepticism any assurances that these products have not been included in human food. Dr. Gary Weaver of the University of Maryland has said, “Uncontrolled distribution of low-quality, imported food ingredients is a great threat to U.S. public health.”
  • Regardless of the purity of the product, isolated soy protein, rather than being a health producing substance as many believe, should be treated as a cheap adulterant. It is a highly manufactured substance and bears little resemblance to healthy soy products such as tofu, miso, and tempeh. Tofu, miso and tempeh have been traditional foods in many Asian societies for thousands of years.

So what can the consumer do?

  • Carefully read the label of products that you are currently using and see if they contain substances such as isolated soy protein.
  • Question whether you need to continue using these products. Be especially careful if you or your children use these products on a daily basis.
  • If you decide that you do need to use them, check if the isolated soy protein is organic. If it is, the chances are excellent that the product is of U.S. origin. Be careful: There are many products that are generally organic, but may have non-organic isolated soy protein.
  • If the product contains non-organic isolated soy protein or similar ingredients, contact the manufacturer and ask for assurances that they are not using imported ingredients without labeling them. Do not buy products from companies that cannot give you these assurances.
  • Eat less processed food, including so-called healthy processed food. Be skeptical of health promoting claims made by manufacturers of processed foods.
  • Finally and most importantly, take responsibility for your own health. Do not assume that you can rely on the government to mandate adequate labeling of food products.


Digg!

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11 Responses to Health Alert: Potentially Harmful Vegetarian Hot Dogs and Power Bars

  1. Bryan says:

    Thanks for the informative article.

  2. Ken Kaufman says:

    Recently I purchased Nutribiotic Rice Protein powder, featuring organic “California Brown Rice”, processed with enzymes. I felt tired while using the product, and it had a peculiar smell. Phoned Nutribiotic and was told that some of their “organic brown rice” comes from China, some from India, and some of the “enzyme processing” may also occur in China. I placed the container in the trash.

    Thanks for your excellent report!!! It is, unfortunately, quite true.

  3. Barry Brownstein says:

    Ken,

    Your report is alarming since at the Nutribiotic site http://store.nutribiotic.com/pgi-productspec?0150 their complete ingredient list for the product that you mention is: “Enzymatically processed rice protein from California brown rice.”

    Two observations: 1. If they are using rice from other countries while claiming California origin this is clearly misleading consumers. 2. It would never occur to most consumers that the “processing may occur in China.”

  4. Ken Kaufman says:

    A bit more…. First, Barry, thanks for highlighting the “loophole in the consumer protection rules.” This is important information.

    A few years ago I used Nutribiotic Rice Protein with no problems. Today, I noticed that the Chinese blame US companies for the recent problems with Chinese food mports. Their (Chinese) logic is that US companies do not completely spec and test food products, but probably purchase on a lowest bid basis. To repeat, my understanding from speaking with Nutribiotic folks is that they do use California organic brown rice, as well as imports from India and China. Lowest bid is important! I do not trust food imported from China (and other countries).

  5. Barry Brownstein says:

    Ken,
    While I agree with your lack of trust of imported food from China, please understand that the lowest bid only wins in this case because the product does not have to be adequately labeled. In other words, if they have to put correctly on their label that some of their rice is imported from China, sales would dry up. They would then be faced with a choice to upgrade their product or go out-of-business.

  6. Jacqué says:

    My daughter was recently diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. She is a vegetarian, student, and busy mother and failed to eat balanced meals. She was wondering if powerbars had anything to do with her illness, since, it seems, she consumed many power bars and soy products. I even gave her two boxes of power bars for Christmas! Your article was a great eye opener. Thank you. All soy products are now banned from the house. My daughter is handling her chemo well and is looking forward to a quick and full recovery.

  7. Jacqué

    I was sorry to read of your daughter’s illness. I hope she has a speedy recovery.

    There are traditional soy products such as tofu, tempeh and miso which can be healthful when used in moderation.

  8. Theo says:

    Thanks for the terrific information. I was just completing a post on the melamine problem when it occurred to me to check my powdered rice protein. Said nothing on the label but it made me wonder. So I Googled it and found that they import the raw powder from China. Further searching led me to your blog. Thanks again, from now on I’m going with only the basic foods and the only processing that’s going to happen is in my kitchen.

  9. Claudia says:

    Thank you for your magnificent information. My husband and I are both vegans and recently we purchase a Nutribiotic Vegan Rice Protein. Since I am pregnant, I more than ever check for labels, ingredients, and warnings of any. This product contains a warning stating to consult with physician if planning to be pregnant or being pregnant and nursing. Californians Residents: This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm.and continues for more information regarding California Prop.65,see http://www.nutribiotic.com/notices.html. When I visited the website it did not have any information of that chemical so I called a number listed 800-225-4345. The first time I called and I asked if this is the Nutribiotic website and a lady said yes. I responded that I purchased a Nutribiotic Rice Protein and I was concerned about the chemical know to cause birth defect because I was pregnant. So the call got lost and I called back again and the same person said it was a wrong number. I haven’t opened this product and I will returned and never buy anything that does not resonate organic locally etc. Thank you so much.

  10. bryan Johnson says:

    I too was just checking the label on the brown rice
    protein powder…What is the chemical that causes
    reproductive harm and how is it reversed….I had no luck on the nutribiotic web site.

  11. Becky says:

    I just purchased Nutribiotic organic rice protein powder and didn’t read the “fine print” (Warning label) until I got home. It’s hard to know who/what to believe these days but in trying to find out whats in this protein powder that warrants a warning I found an explanation on their website that helped ease my mind (until reading this article & the reply about their rice coming from other countries).
    http://www.nutribiotic.com/ca_notice.html

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