Frequently Asked Questions about Protein Testing
Ok, if my protein is under dosed what can I do, I would like to play my part in stamping this out!
Q) How do I get my protein tested?
- A) Simply contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, organise your paperwork (we supply all forms), you then carefully package your sample (approx 30g) and once complete, send it directly to NMI Laboratories. You pay the minor postage costs, nothing else.
Q) But if you are testing it, how can it be unbiased?
-A) Bulk Nutrients do not test any other company's protein. This system is set up so members of the public (you) send your protein directly to Australia’s largest and most legitimate laboratory – The National Measurement Institute. This way, the results are completely unbiased as us or anyone else has no part in the testing. Bulk Nutrients simply pays the bill, which allows the public to test products at no cost to them.
Q) How long does it take to get my results back from the lab
-A) When the laboratory receive the samples, you should receive your results within 10 days. Please note, all results are emailed to us (which are forwarded directly to you). If you would like to receive the results direct from NMI when we do, just let us know when before you send your sample to the laboratory and your email address can be added to the paperwork.
Q) How do I know my protein is tested accurately and is exactly as I sent it.
-A) By sending your protein directly to the laboratory with your signed document, you are ensuring that no one has opened the product but you. NMI will make note of any protein which looks as if it has been tampered with in the postal process.
Q) Why do I have to sign a declaration? That sounds quite serious.
-A) The reason why Bulk Nutrients funds these tests is that we want to get a very clear understanding of the market, as well as an opportunity to educate the customer on the accuracy of the product they have purchased. We are effectively compiling a lengthy document which is an integral piece of information for us. By signing a document, you are making it clear that the sample you provide to the laboratory matches the product you have purchased. The declaration also protects companies in the case that someone may consider sending in a “tampered” sample.
Q) Who are NMI Laboratories, and how do I know these tests are legitimate.
-A) NMI stands for the “National Measurement institute”. This is a Government Department that does a huge range of scientific testing. This is taken from their website:
The National Measurement Institute (NMI) is Australia's peak measurement body responsible for biological, chemical, legal, physical and trade measurement. Click here to download a brochure which explains what we do (PDF 1.7MB). We are a division within the Department of Industry.
Our vision is to deliver capability for measurement in Australia that is world class, increases national economic efficiency, enhances export trade prospects, empowers sound environmental regulation, and enables effective social and health policies.
Q) Can I only test protein I have bought, how about stuff I got for free, or even samples?
-A) Given the cost of testing, we only allow tests done on products which have been purchased by you. If you have received a product from someone else (after they have ordered it and opened it) you can no longer guarantee that it hasn’t been tampered with. In regards to samples, while its likely most companies these would be identical to the products purchased, we only allow testing of products which have been bought and the sales channel clearly shown.
Q) How is the actual protein tested?
-A) NMI uses the industry standard Kjeldahl Nitrogen test for protein. This is the test used by many companies when labelling their goods and is an International standard for measuring protein. To read more about it, we recommend the following link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kjeldahl_method. Once the level of Nitrogen is determined, the laboratory use a factor (in the case of dairy which is 6.38) in which the figure is multiplied by to find the final protein ratio of a product.
Q) But can’t companies display protein in different ways, what does “as is’ and “dry basis” mean?
A) All companies in Australia who manufacture and sell food must abide by legislation for labelling. This labelling ensures that all ingredients are present on a label (in most cases) and that nutritional information (such as protein fats and carbohydrates) is accurate.
Protein amounts should be declared ‘as is”, this measure represents how you buy the product. Occasionally companies quote a value “dry basis”. This is a theoretical number based on the level of your protein once all moisture is removed. Declaring protein on a “dry” basis will show a higher reading (usually between 2% and 6%) and is not an accurate reflection of how you buy your product, as your product contains moisture.
A good analogy would be likening it to someone telling you their bodyweight once fat and water was removed. “Oh, I’m 65kg once you take away my fat and water levels”……This would be about as silly as a company declaring their protein level based on a ‘dry basis” without giving you its ratio ‘as is”.
Legally, companies should always declare their protein level “as is” (however they may also choose to add the “dry” ratio in addition to this) so this is exactly how NMI test it.
Despite all the confusion, all you need to know is that what you read on the label should be very close to the results you get back from NMI.
Q) After I have my protein tested what happens to it?
-A) NMI holds all our samples and paperwork in the case that there is any disputes about the results. This also protects you, the customer, as you can clearly demonstrate that the sample you sent in matches the product you have at home, or other samples sent in by others. We recommend you send in 30g of protein, that way you are not losing much of the protein that you purchased.
Q) How close to what I read on the label should my protein be?
-A) While Bulk Nutrients guarantees our products are almost always within 2% of spec, many companies products may be a lot further from spec than this. Every company will have a different guarantee, however we believe you would likely have rights for a refund if your product was 5% to 10% out of spec.
In our experience customers have had very different responses from companies when they have emailed them about their products being out of spec. In many cases companies will offer various reasons why their products don’t meet label claims and it will be up to you to decide if these reasons are legitimate or not.
If you are going to test your protein, perhaps consider emailing the company about what guarantees they offer before you have your protein tested, that way, when the results are in, you will already have had an agreement from them.
If you have results from NMI that are significantly lower than stated, we would strongly recommend you email the company. Remember, most companies have their goods made by other larger contracting companies, so some may not even be aware their products are out of spec. By letting them know, you are informing them of an issue and giving them an opportunity to ensure they fix this.
Q) If my protein tests low, what are my rights to a refund?
-A) All consumers in Australia are protected by Australian Consumer Law. These laws exist to ensure that consumers in Australia can be assured they are buying goods “fit for purpose” and accurately labelled. If you are specifically buying protein as you believe it is at, or close to 90%, or close to 80% (for example), Australian consumer law protects you.
If your product is what you deem out of spec and you are disappointed with the results then we would strongly encourage you to email the company you purchased it from. Many will be happy to offer you a refund, however if they don’t the following page may be helpful to you ACCC Complaints.
Q) What legitimate excuses could a company possibly offer if my protein tests low?
-A) This is a very interesting question and in our opinion, there is very little which can justify a “low” test compared to that claimed on the label. Since giving people the opportunity to test their proteins we have seen some very creative reasons provided and have debunked a few for people.
From companies claiming they received a bad batch of protein (the supplier later confirmed there had been no issues with the protein), to companies claiming that protein denatures or loses potency over time and due to temperature (Fonterra have provided us a statement confirming this is not true).
The fact is massive dairy companies do not supply under dosed protein, and in fact protein is very stable with a lengthy shelf life. This is exactly why we (and other companies with good practises) have no issues at all guaranteeing what they sell.
Q) Can this really be happening, I mean surely we have laws to protect us from this?
-A) Over 120 lab tests on products purchased from 26 different companies by the public is enough proof that this issue is definitely real. While we are shocked that these issues continue to happen, you need to look at why they do.
Firstly, no legislators routinely check protein levels of products (we wish they did). We have been manufacturing protein blends for almost 10 years, and not once has protein testing been part of our audit process. The reality is, if some companies want to substitute carbohydrates or other cheap fillers for their protein, a very large proportion of customers will have no idea.
Keep in mind when consumers found out about one particular brands offences, retrospective tests showed they had been selling WPI which lab tested at just over 40% (while labelled at 93%) for 18 months. Yes, that means literally thousands of people were buying massively under dosed protein for a long time.
Unless consumers, other companies or anyone else complains (which involves contacting regulators) then companies can and will get away with it. The reality is that cutting protein significantly increases profits. With proteins being such low margin goods, greedy people will multiply their profits by doing this. Since the protein testing started, we have linked 6 companies to one scam (where virtually all products were half dosed), but there are plenty more out there doing it on their own.
As much as protein means a lot to you and us, it is still a niche industry, and while food legislators are worrying about people dying from food poisoning and dangerous practises in the industry, “cut” protein isn’t going to be high on their priority list.
That said, The ACCC and various legislators are well aware of this, but it is a slow process, hopefully things will change in time, but until then let’s make that squeaky wheel as loud as possible!
Q) Ok, if my protein is under dosed what can I do, I would like to play my part in stamping this out!
-A) If your lab results show your protein is significantly under dosed, you have contacted the company you have purchased it from and are unsatisfied with the response, then there are many things you can do.
If you want to contact legislators we recommend the ACCC and your local food authority / council. Any department will always prefer if you have had correspondence with the company you purchased it from first and they will likely want to see that correspondence when you contact them.
In addition to that, you are 100% within your rights to tell your friends, talk about this on Facebook, Twitter or on forums. You have purchased a product which has then failed a very legitimate test which determines it worth. Be aware that some companies may attempt to “silence” you with threats if you do speak publicly about this, however you are well within your rights to speak about it and obviously you will be doing other people a service by doing so.
Also consider the fact that if you have purchased a protein that has tested low, there is a good chance some of those 120+ tests which have been conducted by NMI have been on the same protein as the one you purchased. We do not want to make assumptions about the industry as a whole, but we do want consumers to be aware, and to ensure you're getting what you paid for.