LGC, the globally recognized laboratory behind Informed Protein, has a longstanding history of providing consumer protection, dating back to 1842 when it was tasked with regulating tobacco adulteration as 'referee analyst' through legislation designed to protect the consumer. Today our protein testing laboratories continue to be dedicated to quality assurance in support of the company's mission of "Science for a Safer World."
LGC's laboratories have been testing supplements and ingredients on behalf of reputable manufacturers and suppliers for more than 15 years. During this time, tens of thousands of samples have been tested and a number of research studies have been conducted exploring the prevalence of contamination within supplement products. LGC's state-of-the-art supplement testing laboratories are located in the United Kingdom (Fordham) and the United States (Lexington).
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Protein supplement testing methods used for the analysis of products are accredited to ISO 17025, a globally recognized standard relating to laboratories and test procedures - LGC has held accreditation since 2003. To achieve ISO accreditation, LGC conducts extensive validation analysis to assess matrix and analysis performance.. Within the US accreditation is granted by A2LA (the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation - certificate no. 3244.01).
Consumers are more interested than ever in using supplements to improve their physical fitness and enhance athletic performance, as evidenced by a 2021 survey from the Council for Responsible Nutrition revealing that 80% of Americans now use supplements.
However, not all supplements are produced equally and some less scrupulous manufacturers cut corners to improve their margins. As a result, prominent brands have been accused of "amino spiking" or "nitrogen spiking" to boost the apparent protein content of their products.
The industry standards for protein testing and verification in a nutritional product have been the Dumas or Kjeldahl methods, which determine total nitrogen content, but not necessarily protein content. This means that any nitrogen-containing compound could be used to increase the total nitrogen content of a supplement without adding any actual protein.
Currently, ingredient verification of a marketed food product is required by the Food and Drug Administration when it is newly introduced to the public and then once yearly as it continues being sold - one aspect of which is an assessment of protein content. Companies can assess protein content through various approaches - for example by in-house protein determination or testing of raw materials/review of raw materials certificates followed by calculation of the protein content in the final formulation.
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As this does not offer any independent reassurance, many companies choose to verify the protein content of their products externally. Some brands use a third party to determine and/or verify the protein content in their products post-production, often simply via determining total nitrogen content by the Dumas process. However, a limitation of the Dumas method is its analytical selectivity; the procedure determining total nitrogen, which also includes non-protein nitrogen. This limitation leaves the protein testing method open to potential exploitation, with the ability for unscrupulous manufacturers to use undeclared ingredients (compounds rich in non-protein nitrogen e.g., free amino acids) to boost analytically derived protein levels. In some worst-case scenarios, adulterants such as melamine have been detected in food products, with devastating effects.
Informed Protein employs a significantly more robust approach to lab-tested protein to evaluate the protein content in products by not only verifying the amount of total protein by assessment of the nitrogen content but also by screening for non-protein nitrogen constituents which could result in misleading protein claims. In order to achieve this, we monitor the C/N (Carbon/Nitrogen) ratio to provide reassurance of product consistency, and importantly, we screen for the presence or addition of known adulterants (e.g. melamine) and also free amino acids (i.e. not a constituent of a protein or a peptide) which could be used to falsely elevate results and which have been identified as a problem in the wider industry.
LGC works closely with a number of key stakeholders within the international protein community and supplement industry, to ensure that Informed Protein is at the forefront of protein supplement testing and protein certification.