Two flavours of Vega One nutritional shakes have been contaminated with a prescription drug that poses a serious health risk, according to Health Canada, but the company insists the levels are too low to be harmful.
Vega One Vanilla Chai and Vega Sport Performance Chocolate shakes from Burnaby-based Sequel Naturals have been contaminated with chloramphenicol (CAP), a broad-spectrum antibiotic, Health Canada said in a statement.
“Chloramphenicol is associated with a rare risk of aplastic anemia, a serious blood disorder that can be fatal. This reaction is unpredictable and not related to a specific dose,” the statement said.
Other side effects include, allergic reactions and bone marrow toxicity. The drug is not safe for pregnant or lactating women.
But Sequal Naturals president and founder Charles Chang said the levels of the drug in their shakes are between 0.4 and 1.3 parts per billion and do not pose a health risk.
“All products have some contamination of some kind, but it’s all about the amount. The amount of the drug in our products is too low to pose a risk,” Chang said.
In a statement released to the media Vega stated “the upper most range in the above Health Canada release of 34 ppb is 26 times the highest CAP level found in Vega products. Health Canada has raised the concern about aplastic anemia as a result of CAP ingestion but the science demonstrates that this has only occurred in extremely rare cases at therapeutic doses (125 million times more than what is found in Vega). This has never been documented from residue levels of CAP found in foods.”
However, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has previously stated that it’s not known what a safe level of the drug is for human consumption.
“It is with great shock and disappointment that we learned of Health Canada’s public advisory that specific lots of Vega One and Vega Sport Protein have “potentially serious risks posed to health”, as we are confident that our products in question are absolutely safe,” Vega said.
Health Canada asked the company to recall the products, but Chang said he hasn’t complied because he has unsuccessfully been trying to meet with government officials since finding out about the contamination two weeks ago.
The company has since hired a doctor to test the products, and Chang said the professor found the shakes were safe for consumption.
“I gave Vega One to my kids this morning, the levels are so low, it’s ridiculous,” Chang said. “Our products are safe.”
Health Canada is still warning anyone who has consumed either Vega One product to see their doctor immediately.
Vega said they understand that there have been several Natural Health Product recalled in Canada recently as a result of trace CAP contamination but all of those products have been digestive aid products which contain enzymes as their sole or primary ingredient, and say the enzymes in Vega One represent less than 1 per cent of their formulation.
Chang said he will refund any contaminated products. “Through all of the research and expert opinions, we at Vega feel 100 per cent confident that our products remain safe and pose no risk to human health,” the company said.
UPDATE: Vega released a video statement Sunday to defend their products.
If you have any questions you can contact Vega at 1-866-839-8863 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org