US regulator approves artificial ‘bleeding burger’ meat
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The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given its full approval to Impossible Foods’ “bleeding burger” made from plant-based ingredients.
According to Impossible Foods, a company that makes “meat using plants” and has been backed by Google Ventures and Bill Gates, the burger is unlike other vegan meat substitutes in that it gives the same juiciness and satisfaction that characterises real meat.
The realistic “Impossible Burger” is made using wheat, potato proteins, coconut oil, xanthum and a key ingredient: soy leghemoglobin. This protein carries heme (also called haem), a naturally occurring iron-rich molecule which is abundant in muscle as well as in plants. The molecule is used to enhance flavour and make the burger ‘bleed’ red, satisfying omnivores’ cravings for meat in appearance and taste.
Impossible Foods genetically engineers then ferments yeast in order to produce the protein, rather than harvesting it from animals. According to the company, its plant-based burger uses 75 per cent less water, 97 per cent less land and generates 87 per cent less greenhouse gases.
The FDA has now completed a review of soy leghemoglobin, including a 1063-page submission from Impossible Foods about the ingredient and a rat feeding study, eventually concluding that it is “generally recognised as safe” to eat and complies with all federal food safety regulations. It issued Impossible Foods a no-questions letter confirming its decision.
“Getting a no-questions letter goes above and beyond our strict compliance to all federal food safety regulations,” said Patrick Brown, CEO and founder of Impossible Foods. “We have prioritised safety and transparency from day one, and they will always be core elements of our company culture.”
The company began selling its burgers in restaurants in 2014 and it is now available in nearly 3000 restaurants in the US and Hong Kong. Getting FDA approval will likely allow the company to sell its burger more widely.
While many vegan meat substitutes already exist, synthetic meat – real animal tissue grown in a lab – remains under development. Last week, Netherlands-based Mosa Meat announced that it had raised £6.7m in funding to begin commercial production of lab-grown meat to put on the market by 2021.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that rearing livestock accounts for 14.5 per cent of all carbon emissions relating to human activities, so reducing the quantity of meat in our diets could play a significant role in climate change mitigation. However, meat consumption is set to double between 2000 and 2050.