Soy leghemoglobin, or “heme soy” is the genetically-modified ingredient in Impossible Foods’ Impossible Burger, which surged in popularity after Burger King featured the plant-based patty in the meatless Impossible Whopper.
Heme soy gives the Impossible Burger the same blood-red appearance of a regular beef patty. Many consumers who have tried it say that the Impossible Burger also tastes just like a regular burger.
A plant-based burger that finally looks, feels and tastes just like real meat? What’s not to love?
But not everybody is thrilled about eating a lab-created soy that humans have never consumed before.
Which is why in 2019, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a lawsuit, which challenged the approval of the controversial ingredient by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
The CFS lawsuit, which referred to soy heme as “genetic engineering on steroids,” alleged that the study on soy heme was conducted on rats and was not large enough or not conducted for long enough to determine the safety of the ingredient. In fact, the study on soy heme demonstrated some health risks to rats, including interfering with reproductive cycles.
CFS referred to the FDA approval of soy heme as “unusually rapid.”
But for the time being, it seems Impossible Brands will remain a staple in grocery stores throughout the country, as a federal appeals court in San Francisco recently upheld the FDA’s approval.
The decision by the appeals court also paves the way for Impossible Burgers to be featured in school lunch programs. According to Children’s Health Defense (CHD), the fake meat is featured in a pilot program in school districts around the country.
This, says CHD, is “a concerning trend considering the novel foods’ absence of long-term safety testing.”
What is Soy Heme?
It’s produced by inserting the DNA from soy plants into yeast, creating a genetically-engineered yeast.
Heme is an essential molecule that contains iron. But only animal sources of protein are considered heme-iron. Vegetarian sources such as beans are considered non-heme iron.
According to a research article published in Nutrients, heme constitutes 95% of functional iron in the human body. Non-heme iron, is the main constituent of iron in plants, however, it is less absorbed by the body than heme iron. Therefore, the co-authors write, “Heme should be considered an essential nutrient for humans.”
Soy heme should then be more appropriately called “soy non-heme.”
The engineering of soy heme yields at least a dozen yeast proteins, “the health effects of which are unknown,” CHD cautions.
Despite the decision by the appeals court to uphold soy heme’s FDA approval, CFS maintains that the FDA failed to do its job to protect consumer health by not requiring Impossible Foods to conduct long-term tests.
Therefore, CFS says there is no convincing evidence that soy heme is safe and as such, the approval must be revoked until evidence proves otherwise.
Impossible Influence By Big-Tech?
According to Bloomberg News, the fake meat industry is forecast to reach $450 billion in sales by 2040—a 25% share of the total meat market, both fake and real.
Big tech companies are heavily invested in fake meat brands. Impossible Foods has received funding from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos as well as Bill Gates and Google.
Meat substitutes are touted by investors in plant-based brands as a solution for solving climate change. The narrative is that by reducing the amount of real meat, the emission levels of methane gas (a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming) will be reduced.
However, not everyone is convinced that synthetic meat will solve climate change. The production of fake burgers may result in less carbon dioxide emissions than that of industrial, factory-farmed conventional meat. But plant-based burgers aren’t necessarily better for the environment than grass-fed burgers sourced from regenerative farms, which if managed properly, function as carbon sinks, lowering the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Food for thought…