People tend to assume that, just because its whey protein, a particular protein supplement is automatically safe and healthy. Unfortunately, this is not always true.
Sometimes, these low-quality whey protein supplements sell because they're abnormally cheap. But that doesn't have to be the case every time. In fact, some very well-known and relatively costly whey protein supplements have been found to be contaminated with dangerous and otherwise unwanted substances.
Despite what the labels claiming that their whey is somehow special and superior may lead you to believe, most companies use whey from the same source. That powder is then further processed, flavored and packaged under a brand name that you're more likely to recognize and trust.
Very often, these problematic whey protein powders come from China and are sold throughout the world. Since it's very often that you have at one point unknowingly purchased a whey protein powder from China, it's worth asking: Is Chinese whey protein safe?
Contaminants and Practices
Supplements imported from China have a long and poor history when it comes to overall quality. Several studies have found traditional Chinese herbal supplements to be tainted will all sorts of things, including actual pharmaceutical drugs, heavy metals and even DNA from endangered species like the snow leopard.
Specifically looking at whey protein supplements, Consumer Reports recently performed a review of 15 popular whey protein products and found that several of the products on their list could quickly expose users to toxic levels of heavy metals, including cadmium, lead and arsenic. Several of these contaminated whey proteins started their life in China.
In part, this is due to the unusually high rate of pollution seen throughout the country. In fact, according to a 2014 report from the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection, about one-fifth of all farmland in the country is heavily contaminated with toxic metals like arsenic, cadmium and lead. This includes land that is used to raise the dairy cows that then produce whey.
The toxic elements found in Chinese whey protein and other supplements are not always there by accident, however. Because of lax government standards and regulations on supplements in China, many manufacturers add ingredients – as we saw earlier – that are dangerous and unwanted. More frighteningly, they are able to do this without placing the ingredients on the label.
To avoid the danger of contaminated whey protein supplements, stick with products that are produced in the United States and are sourced from GMO-free, grass-fed cows.
At Naked Nutrition, our whey (and casein) protein powders all fulfil and exceed these standards.