Fake Vs. Original

Ersatz art, imitation apparel, faux leather and even fake news the list is endless. If there is something that sells and leading companies have joined the bandwagon to establish brands in that product category, imitators will jump in. Now, if any of these products are to be ingested, the perils can be scary, such as in fake drugs, eatables, drinks or dietary supplements. Let’s today deal with a specific supplement, namely muscle building protein powders or whey protein in India.

Whey is a byproduct of cheese processing and rich in proteins. Liquid whey is processed and made to powder form, blended with other micro-nutrients, flavoured and sold as protein powders. Whey contains an incredible range of Essential Amino Acids and the absorption is fastest as compared with other sources of proteins. It helps gain muscle mass, increase strength and lose body fat.

So let’s say you are setting out to make your first purchase and are asked to wade through the maze of 400 plus brands, including established premium imported brands and a whole bunch of Indian ones. You might say you could play safe and call for a jar of the high selling imported brands. Easy. Well what if we told you that you there was a 70% chance that you would be ripped off. Yes 60% to 70% of the jars out there in the market are fake and cheap imitations of well selling brands.

Here is an attempt to help you and arm you with some tell-tale signs to look for.

1 Seal Original seal is intact. There is no seal or the seal is tampered with.
2 Logo Original logo is used. Absence / different logo.
3 Barcode Clear legible barcode. Absent / smudged or unclear.
4 Taste (in case of repeat purchase) Consistent with previous purchase. Markedly different taste.
5 Miscibility 25 second shaking should leave no sediment or insoluble matter in the jar. Insoluble material left behind in jar.
6 FSSAI logo. Check the FSSAI logo of the manufacturer and marketer and if the registration no. matches with the company (takes a few seconds on internet). If the search throws up some other company.
7 Country of origin. Country imported from is where the company is based. Some third country.
8 Protein content in %age terms or per serving terms. The serving size is a reasonable 30 to 40 gms and the protein content is expressed in %age per scoop. Where the serving multiples of normal serving scoop and the protein content is on per serving basis.
9 Vegetarian logo (Green square) Present Missing
10 Labels. No spelling mistakes even in the fine print. Mistakes detected.
11 Commercial terms. Proper bills with taxes. Insistence on buying without an invoice or a hand written chit.
12 Date of manufacture and best before dates. Clearly mentioned. Missing.
13 Lot No. / Batch No. Clearly mentioned and with company allowing for verification of same on customer care number. Lot no. missing or invalid.
14 Additives etc. Check for additives, fillers, preservatives used as well as added sugars and sugar free sweeteners such as aspartame and others. If high amounts of these.
15 Amino Acid ‘spiking’ Unnecessary ingredients such as Glycine and Taurine which are naturally produced in good amounts and are cheap are not used to embellish the label. Unnecessary ingredients are shown as important ingredients to confuse.
16 The MRP on the importer label. Clear label. If the MRP area on the label has been stuck over with another small label and a figure printed on it.
17 The price Whey protein concentrate / isolate is largely imported and attract customs duty. This is then fortified with a host of micronutrients and processed scientifically before being packed. So check for a realistic rate. If the rate is too good to be true, it is almost certainly a fake.

The list is by no means exhaustive and one can never be too cautious when putting something in one’s mouth, but this might still hopefully help you gain some perspective while making a purchase. If one is cheated in terms of quantity, or the protein percentage per scoop, but with the ingredients not being detrimental to health, it is still acceptable. However the unscrupulous can plumb to any depths and there have been reports of presence of heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium and arsenic in some dubious powders. That is scary.

So hit the gym, begin your walk, start your run and let the protein powder work on your muscles while you do that. They are safe and they work, but before you pour the first scoop make sure you have gone through the check list. Fore warned is fore armed.