Options for substantiating protein content claims for conventional foods

By James D. House, André Brodkorb, Mark Messina, Michelle Braun, and Elaine S. Krul


In Canada and the United States, front-of-package protein content claims require data to support the quality of the protein. In general, protein quality reflects the product of the amino acid composition of the food protein relative to human amino acid requirements and a measure of digestibility. The currently accepted method in both jurisdictions is the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) that requires the measurement of true fecal protein (nitrogen) digestibility. The latter must be measured in vivo using a rat model. This requirement for animal testing is inconsistent with international efforts to reduce the usage of animals in testing for regulatory purposes. The current commentary positions four options to remove the need to use animal testing for determining protein quality, when considering protein content claim substantiation. These options include (i) a focus on protein quantity alone; (ii) the use of the amino acid score alone, with no correction for digestibility; (iii) the use of a fixed digestibility coefficient to estimate protein quality; and (iv) the use of in vitro methods to measure protein and/or amino acid digestibility. The relative merits and deficiencies of the options are positioned with the goal of encouraging dialogue within the regulatory agencies to move towards alternative approaches for substantiating protein content claims on foods, including those derived from plant-based sources.

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Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism

James D. House, André Brodkorb, Mark Messina, Michelle Braun, and Elaine S. Krul. 2024. Options for substantiating protein content claims for conventional foods. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism49(3): 395-404. https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2023-0243