According to the EU’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), Ireland first flagged the issue and Malta has since warned the public not to take the Arnold Schwarzenegger Iron Pump supplement after it was found to contain the unauthorised novel food ingredient agmatine sulphate.
The product – now said to have been withdrawn from the market – had made its way from the US via Poland, the Netherlands and the UK.
Other countries listed on the alert included Albania, Andorra, Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Arab Emirates.
Since March this year there have been 16 similarly large-scale cases involving multiple countries blocking supplements containing agmatine sulphate at the borders.
It is unclear if all cases are separate and this MusclePharm case is the only one in which the brand is named.
According to the EU’s novel food catalogue, a member state was asked about the status of this product and it was concluded that there was no evidence of its consumption as a food or ingredient before 15 May 1997 meaning it would need to have novel food approval before being legally sold in the EU.
The catalogue defined it as a “decarboxylation product of the amino acid arginine and is an intermediate in polyamine biosynthesis. It is considered a neurotransmitter; agmatine inhibits or inactivates nitric oxide synthase (NOS), and induces the release of some peptide hormones”.
Products containing the ingredient are sold by the likes of Bodybuilding.com in the US – but not in the EU – where it has attracted increasing buzz as a novel nitric oxide enhancer.
Big in the States
Bodybuilding.com described the product as “one of the newest and most promising compounds to hit the sports nutrition industry since the release of creatine”.
Yet under EU law it is illegal without a full novel food safety evaluation – with this transatlantic difference perhaps explaining this reoccurring problem at the EU borders.
MusclePharm did not respond to our request for comment in time for the publication nor did the company’s European distributor Prometeus.
3rd issue in a year
This recall is MusclePharm's third altercation with EU regulators in just over a year.
In July 2015 the Norwegian Food Safety Authority issued a recall warning for the company’s Arnold Iron Dream Concentrated Night Time Recover product, which the authority said contained the dangerous fat burner DNP (2,4-dinitrophenol).
At the time both MusclePharm and Prometeus adamantly denied the accusations and said the issue lay with counterfeit versions of the product.
Yet brand damage proved so great the company was forced to discontinue the line in the EU.
Lars Boers, CEO of Prometeus, told us at the time: “The product name has been damaged by the health authorities to such an extent that further continuation has no point.”
In a separate issue in April this year, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) warned against MusclePharm’s pre-workout Assault Hybrid supplements after it was found they contained over double the safe upper limit for niacin.