Home / News / Consumer watchdog says KOS protein powder contains toxic PFAS

Consumer watchdog says KOS protein powder contains toxic PFAS

Mar 11, 2023Mar 11, 2023

The Environmental Research Center says it tested five products and found toxic ‘forever chemicals’ linked to serious disease

KOS Nature-Powered Organic Plant Protein drinks and powders contain toxic "forever chemicals", a recent filing with the California department of justice charges.

The filing, made by the Environmental Research Center (ERC), a San Diego-based consumer protection nonprofit, states that its testing found PFOA, a dangerous PFAS compound, in five KOS products.

It also alleges KOS is violating California's Proposition 65 law, which among other provisions requires companies to alert consumers when toxic chemicals are used in goods. "[KOS] violated Proposition 65 because they failed to provide persons ingesting these products with appropriate warnings that they are being exposed to this chemical," the filing states.

The ERC and KOS did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

PFAS are a class of about 15,000 compounds typically used to make products resistant to water, stains and heat. They are called "forever chemicals" because they do not naturally break down, and are linked to cancer, kidney disease, liver problems, immune disorders, birth defects and other serious health problems.

The filing states the non-profit found PFOA in KOS Nature-Powered Organic Plant Protein chocolate and vanilla flavors in two package sizes, as well as one package size of chocolate chip mint flavor. The document did not provide the level at which PFOA was detected, but the Environmental Protection Agency found this year that virtually no level of exposure to the compound in drinking water is safe.

KOS powders and drinks are sold at Walmart, Whole Foods, CVS, Walgreens, Target and other national retailers.

The filing demands that the company and state regulators recall the products, add label warnings alerting consumers to the presence of PFOA and pay for health monitoring for those who have consumed the product. It also calls for fines to be imposed.

"Such a resolution will prevent further unwarned consumer exposures to [PFOA], as well as an expensive and time consuming litigation," the filing states. The 27 April document is a notice of violation, and the ERC can sue in state court after 60 days if the demands are not met.

It is unclear how PFAS got in the powders, though it is highly unlikely they were intentionally added. Food packaging can contain the chemicals, or they could have been in contaminated ingredients added to the product mix.

The filing comes after two separate federal suits earlier this year alleged that Bolthouse Farms smoothies and Coca-Cola's Simply Tropical juices also contained PFAS and deceived customers with claims that its products were "all-natural".

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Water is considered to be a main exposure route to PFAS, but researchers have recently found contaminated food and drinks to be more of a risk than previously thought. Though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seven years ago secured from industry a voluntary phase-out of PFOA in food packaging, it has taken little action to address PFAS contamination, and has not set limits for the chemicals in food.

It annually tests some food products for the chemicals, but public health advocates have charged that the agency developed a methodology that ignores dangerous levels.

The lack of regulatory action has left lawsuits that target false advertising as one of the limited pressure points available to force companies to address PFAS contamination.

"This lawsuit is another example of organizations stepping up when the FDA drops the ball," said Tom Neltner, director of safer chemicals with the Environmental Defense Fund. "Despite the evidence that PFOA is still showing up in food from a myriad of other non-food uses, the agency has not set an action level for PFOA and other PFAS to protect food from contamination."

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