Aug. 10, 2017 | by Cherryh Cansler

The company behind the Impossible Burger — the meatless burger boasting it tastes and bleeds like real meat — is on a mission to "correct all the inaccuracies out there resulting" from a New York Times article published this week. The story pointed out that the FDA had not approved one of its key ingredients, Jessica Appelgren, director of communications for Impossible Foods, said in an email to FastCasual.

In an open letter on its website, Impossible Foods has asked NYT editors to correct "the factual errors and misconceptions in the article" about one of the burger's main ingredients — heme — derived from soy leghemoglobin, a protein found in soy roots.

The ingredients found in the Impossible Burger

Impossible Foods, which has sold 50,000 pounds of the meatless burger to restaurants and retailers since its 2016 launch, said its rat-feeding studies and evaluation of "extensive research" surrounding heme proves its safety.

"Humans have been eating heme every day for hundreds of thousands of years. The heme in the Impossible Burger is atom-to-atom identical to the heme found in meat, fish, plants and other foods," the letter stated. 

The New York Times article, however, published documents obtained by two environmental groups from the FDA under the Freedom of Information Act, stating that "Although proteins are a part of the human food supply, not all proteins are safe. Information addressing the safe use of modified soy protein does not adequately address safe use of soybean leghemoglobin protein from the roots of the soybean plant in food."

Impossible Foods, disagreed with that claim, saying that experts in food safety and protein sensitivity have repeatedly concluded that heme is safe to eat. It also claimed that it has always complied with federal food safety regulations and has even voluntarily provided its safety data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"People want and deserve transparency about the food they eat — and we are giving them exactly that," said the company, which provides product information on its website and on all labels. "As part of our commitment to the highest standards of food safety, Impossible Foods has carried out extensive safety tests, and engaged respected, objective academics, who are among the world's top experts in food safety and allergenicity.

In 2014, the company said it submitted its safety analysis of soy leghemoglobin to a panel of experts in food safety from the University of Nebraska, University of Wisconsin and Virginia Commonwealth University, who reviewed the data and found  soy leghemoglobin to be safe for human consumption —  "What the U.S. Food and Drug Administration refers to as self-affirmed 'generally recognized as safe,' or GRAS. This meant that Impossible Foods was in full compliance with the food safety regulations of the FDA. In other words, the ingredients in every Impossible Burger have been confirmed by food-safety experts to be 'generally recognized as safe.'"

In response to the FDA's questions, Impossible Foods also performed a comprehensive and rigorously controlled rat-feeding study, in which rats consumed more than 200 times the expected level of leghemoglobin to which consumers would be exposed, every day for a month. The rats showed no adverse effects, according to the company.

Earlier this year, Impossible Foods opened California production facility to produce 4 million of its plant-based burgers per month. A variety of fast casual chains, including Bareburger, Umami and Hopdoddy Burger Bar, offer the meatless patties.

As of press time, Bareburger, Umami nor Hopdoddy had responded to requests for comment.

Since it's creation in 2011, Impossible Foods has received more than $250 million from investors, which include Khosla Ventures, Bill Gates, Google Ventures, Horizons Ventures, UBS and Viking Global Investors.

Photos courtesy of Impossible Foods


Topics: Food Safety, Health & Nutrition



Cherryh Cansler
Before joining Networld Media Group as director of Editorial, where she oversees Networld Media Group's nine B2B publications, Cherryh Cansler served as Content Specialist at Barkley ad agency in Kansas City. Throughout her 17-year career as a journalist, she's written about a variety of topics, ranging from the restaurant industry and technology to health and fitness. Her byline has appeared in a number of newspapers, magazines and websites, including Forbes, The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine. She also serves as the managing editor for FastCasual.com. wwwView Cherryh Cansler's profile on LinkedIn

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