Rising Popularity of the Impossible Burger

You may have heard about the new meat substitute called the Impossible Burger, and its uncanny flavor and texture similarities to real meat.  The Impossible Burger is a product of Silicon Valley based company Impossible Foods,which is backed by Bill Gates, Google Ventures, and other billion dollar companies.  This burger is now sold at popular restaurants such as Burger King and White Castle.    

Due to its popularity, it seems as if it must be safe to eat.  But what do we know about its ingredients?  The Impossible Burger is made with an ingredient that is completely novel to the human body.  

Heme Makes It All Possible

The Impossible Burger is made using a genetically engineered form of a protein called soy leghemoglobin (SLH) or “heme” that is found in the root nodules of soybean plants. Impossible Foods adds an SLH gene to a yeast strain, which is then grown in vats using a fermentation process. The SLH or heme is then isolated from the yeast and added to the Impossible Burger. Heme gives the Impossible Burger its meat-like taste and blood-like red color.

Though the SLH is just a small part of the burger, the taste packs a punch.  Sometimes a small amount of an ingredient can go a long way, in terms of flavor, but also, unfortunately, in terms of toxicity.   As of yet, there have been no studies to show this SLH protein is safe.  The FDA has voiced concerns over this lack of testing, however, has still allowed the product to be put out on the market. 

What About the Rest of the Ingredients?

Here is a list of the ingredients:  Water, Soy Protein Concentrate, Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Potato Protein, Methylcellulose, Yeast Extract, Cultured Dextrose, Food Starch Modified, Soy Leghemoglobin, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Zinc Gluconate, Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Niacin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12.

The rest of the ingredients in the Impossible Burger are no better.  Soy protein concentrate is a highly processed food. And soy protein is in itself a GMO. “Natural Flavors” is a code word for an MSG type of substance.  Vitamins added to foods are chemically synthesized or made from bacterial byproduct (usually gmo bacterias).  These vitamins do not naturally occur in real food. 

Possible Health Effects

Many people have reported adverse effects from eating the burger, possibly from an allergic reaction to one or more of the ingredients.  For those who don’t experience adverse effects right away, the effect might be cumulative and show up much later.  This is what I have seen from GMO food in general.  

My recommendation is to stay away from this food, and if you are interested in eating veggie burgers, look for those that do not include soy or any protein “isolate”.   

To learn about the health effects of GMOs, click here.