Health for humans, animals & plants

Plant-based milk alternatives under the microscope

In 2017, 60 plant-based milk alternatives were tested for contaminants, mycotoxins and glyphosate.

AGES tested 60 different plant-based milk alternatives such as soy, spelt, oat, almond, millet, rice, buckwheat, macadamia, hazelnut, cashew, coconut and quinoa drinks as well as mixtures made from these (e.g. rice-coconut drink, almond-coconut drink, soy-rice drink ...). Furthermore, plant-based milk alternatives with flavors such as chocolate and vanilla as well as products fortified with calcium and vitamin B12 were also sampled. All 60 samples were analyzed for the heavy metals cadmium, lead and mercury as well as for the semi-metal arsenic. In 31 samples, the arsenic content was below the limit of quantification and thus could not be determined. The lowest arsenic content of 3.75 µg/kg was measured in a spelt drink and the arsenic maximum value of 59.80 µg/kg was detected in a whole grain rice drink. Lead was detectable in 6 of 60 samples and the measured values ranged from 3.05 µg/kg - 8.70 µg/kg. The contaminant cadmium was detectable in 44 of 60 samples and the readings ranged from 0.95 µg/kg - 12.90 µg/kg. Mercury was not detectable in any of the 60 plant-based milk alternatives. Perchlorate and glyphosate were undetectable in all 60 samples. Chlorate was determinable in 28 of 60 samples.

169 mycotoxin analyses were performed. No mycotoxins could be measured in determinable concentrations. As part of an AGES focus action, 23 rice beverages were tested for genetic modification. None of these samples contained genetically modified rice.

The nutritional value declaration according to the packaging was also recorded for all products tested. The nutritional composition of plant-based milk alternatives varied both between the different varieties (nut-based, rice-based, etc.) and within a variety and depended, among other things, on vitamin and mineral fortification and the addition of ingredients such as sugar and oil. Plant-based milk alternatives can be fortified with nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, vitamin B2 and vitamin E. Calcium is the most commonly added. Instead of calcium (e.g. calcium carbonate, tricalcium phosphate), some products contain the seaweed Lithothamnium Calcareum, which consists of calcium and therefore also provides calcium.

Last updated: 14.09.2022

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