The thing that makes the the New York Times reports.oh so tasty — and, well, burger-y — might not be good for you. Soy leghemoglobin, or “heme,” is currently under review by the Food and Drug Administration as a potential allergen,
The meat-free Impossible Burger, made by startup Impossible Foods, has earned high marks from carnivores and vegans alike. It’s sold as a high-end foodie curiosity at restaurants in New York (Momofuku Nishi), LA (Crossroads Kitchen), Las Vegas (Andrea’s), various cities in Texas (Hopdoddy) and San Francisco (Jardiniere and Cockscomb). It supposedly has a similar look and taste to the real deal.
One of the main things that contributes to this is that it “bleeds” like a regular burger. CNET’s very own Dara Kerrat Impossible Foods’ lab in Redwood City, California last year. “Heme is identical inside a plant and in the muscle tissue of an animal. It is the taste of blood,” Celeste Holz-Schietinger, Impossible Foods’ principal scientist told Kerr during her visit.
But is heme safe to eat? Impossible Foods provides a full ingredient list for the Impossible Burger on its FAQ page. It even dedicates a complete section to the question, “What is the ingredient leghemoglobin (soy)?”
“FDA believes the arguments presented, individually and collectively, do not establish the safety of soy leghemoglobin for consumption,” FDA officials wrote in a memo obtained by the Times, “nor do they point to a general recognition of safety.”
Impossible Foods said in a statement Tuesday that the Impossible Burger’s “key ingredient” is safe to eat, citing “a panel of food safety and allergy experts at three universities.”
In a followup comment, Impossible Foods said it has asked for corrections and clarification from The New York Times over issues it has with the story. “We are awaiting a response.”
The FDA didn’t respond to CNET’s request for comment.
First published Aug. 8, 8:21 a.m. PT.
Update, 10:25 a.m.: Adds comment from Impossible Foods.