An exercise supplement containing a substance not considered safe for human use will be pulled from New Zealand shelves following a Herald investigation.
Testing performed by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) indicated the pre-workout supplement Frenzy contains the banned psychoactive substance DMBA, a chemical cousin of a party-pill ingredient whose effects have been studied only in cats and dogs.
Pre-workout supplements are designed to boost energy and concentration during gym workouts. They are hugely popular despite a rash of recent cases where products have been found to contain illegal and dangerous substances such as methamphetamine analogues, banned stimulants and psychoactive agents.
Frenzy is made by Driven Sports, an American company best known for Craze, a popular supplement withdrawn from the market in 2013 after it was revealed to contain analogues of methamphetamine (P).
Frenzy was described as "the new Craze" when sold to an undercover Herald reporter at an Auckland supplement store in December.
It is not clear how much of the product has reached our shores.
Online reviews published on the website of Frenzy's distributor in Britain, Predator Nutrition, describe effects such as increased aggression, rage, euphoria and tunnel vision.
"Take 3-4 scoops and experience tunnel vision, extreme focus and a feeling of well being! I can workout for hours and hours on this," one said.
Another said: "Frenzy gives an insane energy pump ... full on goosebump rushes."
ESR's preliminary findings could not be fully confirmed as DMBA has not been seen before in NZ and the laboratory did not possess a reference standard to match it against.
Frenzy contains a subtance that's chemically related to an ingredient of party pills. Photo / Supplied
DMBA is listed as an ingredient on Frenzy's label under the chemical name 4-methyl-2-pentanamine citrate and its presence has been confirmed in tests in the United States.
The Ministry of Health confirmed it was moving to halt sales of Frenzy.
"The Psychoactive Regulatory Authority is contacting retailers of Frenzy to advise that DMBA is a psychoactive substance and its sale and supply are prohibited under the Psychoactive Substances Act," said Medsafe's manager of compliance management, Derek Fitzgerald.
Driven Sports director Matt Cahill has faced multiple charges for spiking health products with harmful illegal substances over the past decade. In 2005, he was sentenced to two years' jail for mixing a highly toxic pesticide with baking powder and selling it for weight loss.
Craze was withdrawn from the market in 2013 after it was found to contain analogues of P. Photo / Supplied
He was also involved in the development and marketing of a steroid that had never been tested on humans. Some customers who ingested it suffered liver damage, and those who took the weight-loss pills were exposed to a chemical that was banned for human use in the 1930s after users went blind.
Written questions to Mr Cahill and Driven Sports through the company's lawyer about the sale of Frenzy had not been responded to at the time of print.
DMBA is a chemical cousin of banned party-pill ingredient DMAA, which has been linked to heart failure and deaths after also being included as an ingredient in some pre-workout exercise supplements.
The Herald reporter who purchased Frenzy was told by a salesman at a popular Auckland supplement store chain the product contained "herbal stimulants".
However, an American DMBA study rejects claims by some supplement makers that the drug is a natural extract of pouchong tea. It found a tonne of the tea would be required to extract just 12mg of DMBA, while a typical serving of Frenzy contained 110mg of the drug.
Banning DMBA was likely to be ineffective as similar analogues would be immediately introduced to replace it, the study said.
In New Zealand, moves to regulate a sports supplement industry worth millions of dollars here and many billions worldwide each year appear to have stalled.
The Natural Health and Supplementary Products Bill - which would set up a regulatory authority and introduce tougher rules and penalties for using banned ingredients and making unsupported marketing claims - has been before Parliament in some guise since 2006 and was supposed to come into effect in January last year.
It passed two readings in the House with near-unanimous support during National's last term but was never enacted.
A spokeswoman for Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said it needed to be slotted back into the legislative agenda now the election had been held.
- Additional reporting Morgan Tait