- A recent study on rats has highlighted health concerns about a protein called soy leghemoglobin (SLH) – a GMO yeast-derived protein used to make Impossible Food’s plant-based burger. The rats fed with this ingredient developed weight gain changes and possible kidney and inflammation diseases.
- While the FDA initially rejected Impossible’s application in 2015, concluding that SLH’s safety for consumption was not established, a later attempt in 2017 following a second study was successful.
- The article criticises this decision, citing concerns regarding the study’s length and the dismissal of multiple potential health concerns as “non-adverse” on the grounds that they appeared to reverse themselves after a few days.
- Impossible Food’s recently introduced a new recipe for its burger, which in addition to the GMO-derived SLH now includes another GMO ingredient in the form of a protein from herbicide-tolerant soy, which may contain potential residues of glyphosate.
- As a result of the above concerns, the non-profit group GMO Free USA has launched a health survey to collect data from people who believe they experienced adverse affects after eating the Impossible Burger.
Analysis and Comments
- While I do not think Beyond Meat, Impossible’s now public competitor, uses the same protein source, a food scare on plant-based meat would likely have a negative impact on the entire sector.
- Should Impossible Foods want to go public (which seems likely), this could prove to be a PR/Investor perception issue for them going forward, particularly as only a longer-term study with a larger number of animals could clarify the significance of the worrying effects listed in the above study.
- Given the claims made by producers of plant-based alternatives regarding the health benefits of their products, we will be tracking the response of the scientific community to this study.