Company behind 'brain drink' Ārepa making 'not substantiated' health claims, Ministry for Primary Industries says

  • 02/11/2023
Arepa drink.
Some of the company's claims "are in breach of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code", regulators say. Photo credit: Ārepa

A New Zealand drink company has been ordered by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) to clarify some "unsubstantiated" claims about the benefits of consuming its products. 

Alphagen NZ Ltd, which makes Ārepa - a blackcurrant drink commonly used by athletes - has been told by the ministry's New Zealand Food Safety body to publish a notice on its website highlighting that some of its claims "are in breach of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code".

Marketed as a "brain drink", Ārepa's website claims its products support neurological and psychological function.  

"Alphagen NZ Limited have received Notice from New Zealand Food Safety regarding the health claims we make about our Ārepa products and the labelling of our products," the notice on the website reads. 

"Health claims that can be attributed to the vitamin C content do not identify that vitamin C is responsible for the health benefit. We will be working with New Zealand Food Safety to remove or correct the health claims on the Ārepa product labels and advertising material."  

The company said it was in the process of "submitting our further scientific dossiers relating to some of the other ingredients in our product".  

Neuroscientist Nick Gant from the University of Auckland previously ran a randomised, controlled trial on the effects of the drink.  

"The study showed no benefits, and he and others involved have voiced concerns about claims made for the drink," the university said in a statement.  

And, while separate University of Auckland research published earlier this year showed the consumption of Ārepa could enhance performance while exercising, a "major limitation" of the study was the reduced sample size of nine people, "which was unfortunately caused by subject drop out beyond our control".  

"Further studies with larger sample size are required to confirm the results of this study and to determine the underlying mechanisms responsible for any potential benefits," the research published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology said. 

MPI said health claims on food products must be supported by "sound scientific evidence".

The ministry "supports the food industry to ensure that New Zealand health claims are more likely to meet international standards", it said.  

"This improves the status of New Zealand-sourced health claims."