The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has issued a warning to consumers after extremely high levels of caffeine were found in a protein powder product sold in the UK.
The protein powder product in question, 1.5kg bags SCI-Mx Nutrition Ultra Muscle Strawberry Flavour with a best before date of March 2025, was sold at British variety store Home Bargains.
Testing of the product found that it had over 5g of caffeine per serving, the equivalent of up to 200 cups of coffee. If consumers follow the on-pack advice and have two helpings per day, this would give them a daily dose of over 10g.
The FSA has warned that for most individuals, 10g can be a lethal dose. Caffeine doses as low as 3g (less than one serve of the affected batch) have been identified as lethal for certain sensitive individuals.
Severe, perhaps fatal, consequences if consumed
Home Bargains first recalled the SCI-MX product last week. SCI-MX Nutrition also recalled the product, displaying point of sale notices in all retail stores selling the product.
Too much caffeine can produce anxiety, sleeplessness, agitation, palpitations, diarrhoea and restlessness, with potentially more serious effects for individuals with a mental health condition. But at the levels present in the tested batch of SCI-MX’s product, the risk could be even greater.
“If you have purchased this product, do not take the risk of consuming it,” said FSA head of incidents Tina Potter, citing the risks of excessive caffeine consumption.
“In this case, the exceptionally high levels of caffeine could mean the consequences are even more severe and perhaps even fatal.”
Affected products can be identified by the batch code W110429. Two further batches have since been recalled after being found to be contaminated with caffeine at lower levels: batch W110430 was found to contain 540mg caffeine per 150g serving and batch W110431 contained 17mg caffeine per 150g serving.
‘An isolated incident’
SCI-MX said it is continuing to work closely and cooperated with the FSA and Home Bargains on the ongoing product recall.
“Since the moment the high levels of caffeine were detected, SCI-MX has been open, transparent, and timely in our responses to all parties involved,” noted James Williams, general manager, health & wellness at Supreme Imports (which acquired the SCI-MX brand name in 2021).
“We want to emphasise that this is an isolated incident and is only affecting the products with the specific batch numbers we have announced – no other SCI-MX products are affected by this recall.”
The brand is conducting a ‘thorough review’ of its systems and processes to assess its production. “This serious event goes to the core of what we stand for, and we will take every step necessary to preserve the full trust and confidence of our consumers.”
The importance of compliance
For trade association the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA), when quality incidents occur a ‘rapid response’, including a prompt recall and immediate information for consumers, are essential in addressing and minimising the impacts of such incidents.
This recall demonstrates the importance of compliance with applicable rules for the sports and active nutrition sector, ESSNA chair Luca Bucchini told this publication.
Important, too, are ‘adequate controls’ in product manufacturing and the need for businesses to have robust processes in place to help ensure high-quality products that are safe for consumers, noted Bucchini, who suggested that the industry has made significant progress in raising the levels of quality assurance for its products.