Undeclared or incorrect allergen labelling, undeclared ingredients or contamination – these are three the most common reasons why protein bars are being recalled from the market all the time. And although protein bar makers do their best to avoid it, it happens all the time. Here is the list of the makers and brands that experience recall of their protein bars from the market recently.

There are many reasons why protein bars makers decide to recall their products from the market. Missing or misleading allergen information on the packaging is one of the most common reasons for that. Also, the lack of some ingredients in the ingredients list might lead to that decision. Contamination of supplied ingredients is another one. Along with the presence of physical contamination in one case. Or a faulty developing process, especially when a new product is created and introducing to the market.

The decision to recall a product from the market is not an easy decision for any maker. It obviously affects nearly every aspect of their current activities, including supply chain, R&D (Research and Development), planning, production, delivery, restock, PR (Public Relations) activity, brand perception and so on. However, while found an issue, protein bar makers are obligated to comply with the appropriate law, rules and regulations obligatory in a particular country.

And although such a decision is not easy and might cost a maker a lot of money, they sometimes decide to expand the recall to more than possibly affected products voluntarily. It might be done due to the internal investigation. Or based on consumers’ feedback. Or to make sure that every possible issue is eliminated. And as the cost of it might be huge, some makers do their best to make sure that their products are safe and properly labelled.

So who keep their eyes on the food and protein bars makers?

In the UK, the authority being in charge of food safety is the Food Standards Agency. [1] It’s an independent government department working across England, Wales and Northern Ireland to protect public health and consumers’ wider interest in food. Their approach includes using science, evidence and information, legislative and non-legislative tools to protect consumer interests and deliver consumer benefits – influencing business behaviour in the interests of consumers.

In the US, the FDA (The Food and Drug Administration) is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products and medical devices. It ensures the safety of all food except for meat, poultry and some egg products. [2]

The most spectacular product recall up to date.

The most spectacular recalls in protein bars market – RXBAR (via: RXBAR)

RXBAR announces one of the most spectacular and partially voluntary recall in December 2018 in the USA. [3] The company initially recalled their Chocolate Sea Salt and Coconut Chocolate flavours. However, they decided to expand the recall to another as many as 13 flavours and products out of an abundance of caution after receiving consumer contacts regarding allergic reactions to additional varieties. They included:

As we can read in company announcement via FDA site, RXBAR decided to recall certain varieties of bars because they may contain undeclared peanuts. People who have peanut allergies run the risk of a serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume the product. [4]

Right after the issue arose, the company immediately changed suppliers for this ingredient.

Product recall due to contamination in the UK.

Another serious problem, this time in the UK, was a recall of Fulfil White Chocolate & Cookie Dough protein bar (our review) in June 2018. [5] A Red Star Brands recalled one batch/lot of these protein bars due to the suspected plastic fragment contamination. It put a risk of choking, oral injury, internal ingestion and GI tract laceration damage. All of these were serious health and safety hazards. [6]

Fulfil White Chocolate & Cookie Dough Vitamin & Protein Bar - New Improved Taste

Anyway, we reviewed Fulfil White Chocolate & Cookie Dough protein bar in 2019 and it wasn’t spectacular. However, fortunately, it was free from any contamination. In the meantime, Fulfil introduced a new iteration of this protein bar with a ‘new improved taste’. We gave it a try as well, but we didn’t spot any difference between them.

Oher protein bar recalls in the UK.

Real Handful Choc Orange Chase Protein Bar
Real Handful Choc Orange Chase Protein Bar

In February 2019 Real Handful recalled its Choc Orange Chase Protein Bar (our review). [7] The reason for that was it contains sesame which was not mentioned on the label. That means the product could be a possible health risk for anyone with an allergy to sesame.

Also, Spartan experienced some problem with their protein bars in October 2019. [8] The reason for that was inadequate labelling where the presence of milk and cereals/gluten allergens, peanuts and soya were not highlighted in the format required by current EU regulations. The recall affected Peanut Butter & Cacao Protein Flapjacks (all pack sizes) and some Protein Chocolates (Mint Crisp and Orange Crisp flavours, 50g each).

Spartan’s Protein Bar and Chocolates (via: The Sun)

These products contained milk, oats (gluten), peanuts and soya. This means the products are a possible health risk for anyone with an allergy or intolerance to milk or milk constituents, oats or gluten or allergy to peanuts or soya.

But this is not the only issue with Spartan’s products. The company had a similar problem with its products back in November 2018 due to incorrect allergen labelling. [9] Peanut Butter & Cacao Flapjack, Peanut Butter and Honey Flapjack, Total Recovery and Pure Whey Protein were affected because they contain milk, peanuts and wheat (gluten) which were not emphasised correctly on the label. And again, these products were a possible health risk for anyone with an allergy or intolerance to milk or milk constituents or wheat (gluten) or an allergy to peanuts.

CLIF. This happened in July 2017 when CLIF recalled certain batch/lots of their CLIF BUILDER’s Chocolate Mint Protein Bar (our review) due to undeclared Peanuts and Tree Nuts as well as improperly declared Barley, Milk, Rye and Wheat. [10] They all are known allergens, sources of dietary intolerance and possible triggers of anaphylaxis, serious and potentially fatal situations, requiring immediate medical intervention.

CLIF Builder's Protein Bar Chocolate Mint
CLIF Builder’s Protein Bar Chocolate Mint

Other recalls in the USA.

BHU FOODS (July 2017). [11] The company decided to voluntarily recall a number of their protein bars consisting of organic sunflower seeds. The reason for that was the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Although no confirmed illness have been reported to public health authorities, Bhu Foods recalled these products out of an abundance of caution.

The most spectacular recalls in protein bars market
BHU Fit Organic Vegan Protein Bars (via: BHU Foods)
  • Organic Vegan Protein – Chocolate + Tart Cherry + Pistachio
  • Organic Vegan Protein – Apple Chunk + Cinnamon + Nutmeg
  • Organic Vegan Protein – Peanut Butter + Chocolate Chip
  • Organic Vegan Protein – Superfood Chocolate Chip + Fudge Brownie Batter
  • Organic Vegan Protein – Peanut Butter + White Chocolate
  • Grass-Fed Whey Protein – Dark Chocolate + Coconut + Almond (Made with Organic Ingredients)
  • Grass-Fed Whey Protein – Salted Caramel + Pecan (Made with Organic Ingredients)
  • Grass-Fed Whey Protein – Vanilla + Almond + Cashew (Made with Organic Ingredients)
  • Paleo Protein – Double Dark Chocolate Chip (Made with Organic Ingredients).

HERBALIFE (February 2018). [12] The company voluntarily recalled lots of its Protein Bar Peanut Butter. The reason for that was it might contain a trace amount of undeclared fish allergen, which was added to the product as part of a flavouring ingredient provided by a third-party supplier.

Herbalife Protein Bar Peanut Butter (via: Twitter)

BULLETPROOF (June 2017). [13] In this case, the recall regarded five collagen protein bars and bites products, including Fudge Brownie, Lemon Cookie and Vanilla Shortbread flavours.

Bulletproof Collagen Protein Bars recalled by Bulletproof (via: Pinterest)

Similarly to the Bhu Foods recall, these products had the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. This organism can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people and others with weakened immune systems. As the report says, although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhoea, listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

In this case, the products were also distributed internationally via the company’s website in the following countries: Australia, Bahrain, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Cayman Islands, China, Finland, France, Germany, Guam, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Macau, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Virgin Islands (USA).

AMRITA (August 2017). [14] This is another case with contamination of Listeria monocytogenes playing the main role. And again, no confirmed illness have been reported to public health authorities.

Selected Amrita bars recalled from the market (via: Amrita)

The company decided to recall their Amrita Bars that were distributed across the country via retail stores, e-commerce and direct as below.

  • Chocolate Maca Bar (60g)
  • Dark Chocolate Quinoa (60g)
  • Sunflower Seed Butter (60g)
  • Chocolate Chip Coconut (50g)
  • Mango Coconut (50g)
  • Apricot Strawberry (50g)
  • Pineapple Chia (50g)
  • Apple Cinnamon (50g)
  • Cranberry Raisin (50g)

PRO SPORTS CLUB. [15] This company decided to recall 36,957 Yogurt Peanut Crunch protein bars in March 2017 because they could be contaminated with Escherichia Coli (E. Coli) bacteria. It causes a diarrheal illness often with bloody stools. Although most healthy adults can recover completely within a week, some people can develop a form of kidney failure called Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS). HUS is most likely to occur in young children and the elderly. The condition can lead to serious kidney damage and even death.

Pro Sports Club Protein Bar recalled from the market (via: Twitter)

Fortunately, no illness related to the consumption of the Yogurt Peanut Crunch Bars has been reported.

Aspire Food Group and EXO protein bars (April 2020). [16] The company has recalled its 60g bars of EXO Blueberry Vanilla, Peanut Butter & Jelly and Apple Cinnamon bars because it may contain undeclared sulfites. People who have a severe sensitivity to sulfites run the risk of a serious or life-threatening reaction if they consume these products.

EXO’s Cricket Protein Bars recalled from the market (via: FDA)

The recall was initiated after it was discovered that the apricots used in the products contain sulfur dioxide as a preservative, and the packaging did not reflect the presence of sulfites. No illness has been reported to date in connection with this problem.

IDLife and their protein bars, snack bars and kids bars (March 2018). [17] The reason for the recall was the fact they could contain undeclared allergens. IDLife discovered that the lots of Protein Bars referenced above might contain undisclosed almonds, the lots of Snack Bars referenced above may contain undisclosed peanuts, and the lots of Kids Bars may contain undisclosed almonds and coconut oil. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to these specific allergens run the risk of a serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.

No illnesses, reactions or events have been reported to date.

Wrap up.

It might seem there were many ingredients and contamination issues regarding protein bars recently. And we can agree with it, partially. From one hand, it shouldn’t happen at all, as the production processes are getting better, more complex, highly repeatable and trustworthy. On the other hand, there’s no option we will be able to eliminate every possible issue. Especially with so many makers on the market that is so competitive and where the costs do matter that much.

Also, the good news is companies are doing their best to eliminate any issues they experience as soon as possible. The result of that is customers can feel safe. Especially, none illness has been reported to public health authorities due to the issues we write about.

Stay safe.