This is what fake meat is made out of

by The Listener / 22 July, 2018
RelatedArticlesModule - Fake meat made out of

Joanna Blythman.

Meatless meat is yet to get a clean bill of health. British food writer Joanna Blythman, author of Swallow This: Serving Up the Food Industry’s Darkest Secrets, studied the ingredients of an Impossible Burger patty last November and found it contained:

• Textured wheat protein, potato protein and soya protein isolates, which were extracted from their eponymous food “using high-tech chemical and physical methods that are veiled in commercial secrecy”.

• Coconut oil, which had “a trendy ‘superfood’ ring to it … isn’t raw” and that its inherent nutritional value had been “heavily compromised by harsh industrial refining processes”.

• Industrial hydrocolloid gums konjac and xanthan (the latter designed to thicken the drilling mud in the oil industry), included to absorb the product’s high water content and glue together ingredients that wouldn’t naturally bond.

• Man-made flavourings, labelled “natural”, which are used to replace flavours “destroyed by the rigours of the manufacturing process, and also to mask unpleasant flavours”.

• In contrast to the spectrum of vitamins in real beef, this product is fortified with synthetic versions that are “added to breakfast cereals to make them seem healthier than they really are”.

Blythman sums up: “So that’s the Impossible Burger: water, protein powders, glues, factory flavourings, flavour enhancers, synthetic vitamins – all signifiers of low-grade, ultra-processed food – and a novel ingredient that has no proven track record of safety.”

That last comment is a reference to the protein in the patty: heme, or soy leghemoglobin (SLH), a vat-grown, genetically engineered form of the heme iron found in the root nodules of soybean plants. It is what makes fake meat meaty, lending it a “bloody” look and a meat-like taste and colour.

The company that produced the patty, Impossible Foods, sought regulatory blessing from the US Food and Drug Administration, which was due to report the results of its investigations at the end of April, but announced a 90-day delay. Its report is due to be released at the end of this month.

*See Blythman’s full report on the Impossible Burger here:

This article was first published in the July 21, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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