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FDA Approves Impossible Burger "Heme" Ingredient; Still Wants to Regulate "Cultured Meat"

Accepted submission by takyon at 2018-08-09 00:22:44
Techonomics

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved soy leghemoglobin [wikipedia.org] as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for human consumption:

Last August, documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that the FDA hadn't stomached the company's previous GRAS application [arstechnica.com]. The agency concluded that soy leghemoglobin—a protein found in the roots of soybean plants that Impossible Foods harvests from genetically engineered yeast and uses to simulate the taste and bloodiness of meat—had not been adequately tested for safety.

In the application, Impossible Foods argued that the iron-containing protein is equivalent to hemoglobin, an oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells and commonly consumed in meat. Thus, the protein was safe, the company concluded. It went as far as conducting studies in rats to back up the claim. But the FDA noted that soy leghemoglobin had never been used as an additive before, and the organization wanted data showing that the protein was safe and not an allergen specifically for humans.

[...] At the time, the decision was a searing blow to Impossible Foods, which up until then had fired up the appetites of investors and top chefs alike and savored glowing publicity. Since the company's founding in 2011, big names such as Bill Gates and Google Ventures served up more than $250 million in startup funds, and the impossible patty sizzled on the menus of such high-end restaurants as Momofuku Nishi in New York and Jardinière in San Francisco. The soy leghemoglobin was a big part of that hype, with the company touting it as its "secret sauce."

But the FDA's gut check didn't knock Impossible Foods off the market; it just left a bad taste. In fact, the company wasn't even required to submit its GRAS application to begin with due to the controversial way in which the FDA oversees food additives and GRAS designations. Under the 1938 Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and the 1958 Food Additives Amendment, the FDA allows food companies and their hired consultants to internally test and determine a GRAS designation of a potential new additive all on their own. They can start using it without getting approval from the FDA or even notifying the agency. The FDA only steps in after the fact if problems arise.

Impossible Foods' FAQ says [impossiblefoods.com] "the heme molecule in plant-based heme is atom-for-atom identical to the heme molecule found in meat". Heme is a component of soy leghemoglobin consisting of an iron atom bound in a porphyrin [wikipedia.org] ring.

Meanwhile, the FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are continuing to fight [sciencemag.org] over which agency will have jurisdiction over "cultured meat" (i.e. lab-grown animal cells for human consumption):

In a daylong discussion of safety considerations, the agency asserted its jurisdiction over products made of chicken, beef, pork, and seafood cells grown in a culture medium, despite recent calls—including a proposal from lawmakers in the House of Representatives [sciencemag.org]—to leave that responsibility to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Cultured meat, also sometimes called clean meat or lab-grown meat, is made by extracting cells from an animal and prompting them to mature into muscle fibers and grow in a bioreactor. No products have yet hit the market, though several companies have suggested that their first generation of cultured meat will be available in the next 5 years.

Previously: Inside the Strange Science of the Fake Meat that 'Bleeds' [soylentnews.org]
Impossible Foods Just Raised $75 Million for Its Plant-based Burgers [soylentnews.org]
U.S. Cattlemen's Association Wants an Official Definition of "Meat" [soylentnews.org]

Related: Cargill, Bill Gates, Richard Branson Backed Memphis Meats Expects Meat From Cells in Stores by 2021 [soylentnews.org]


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