Burger King’s new plant-based burger has a secret ingredient

Lianna Norman, Editor-in-Chief

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On April 29, Burger King announced their intention to begin serving Impossible burgers at all of their locations nationwide by the end of the year. So, what’s an Impossible burger? Impossible Foods is a company that makes plant-based products in place of meat and dairy products. But, what makes this plant-based burger different from any run-of-the-mill veggie burger? What made Burger King buy into it?

Well, for starters, the Impossible Burger has just recently been approved by the FDA within the last year, according to an article by Forbes. Apparently what seems to set this plant-based burger apart from a veggie burger is its ability to “bleed.” How does something made of plants bleed? A controversial special ingredient called soy leghemoglobin. This term probably doesn’t shed too much more of a light on the topic, seeing as it looks like gibberish, so let’s dive into what this special ingredient is.

Courtesy of Hollywood.com

According to a safety evaluation of soy leghemoglobin found in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, this soy protein is the substance that gives some plant-based meats like that of the Impossible Burger a meat-like flavor profile. The protein is also what allows the fake meat to “bleed” as real meat would. But a soy protein seems harmless enough, so why did it take so long for the FDA to approve it? And even longer for major fast food chains to start using it. The protein that Impossible uses is genetically engineered and was submitted to the FDA to be reviewed in October of 2017. Combining two things like soy (which we know at least mildly affects hormonal balance) and genetic modification are obviously a prime point of contention to raise some eyebrows in the health community.

Between when Impossible Foods requested permission to be approved by the FDA in 2017 and when they were approved in 2018, there was plenty of talk about the topic of whether introducing this soy protein would help or hurt public health. On one hand, you have less saturated fats in a plant-based burger along with less environmental repercussions; on the other, a genetically modified protein that hadn’t been widely used in the food industry before. Articles titled “I ate an Impossible Burger – wish I hadn’t” began popping up.

The controversial rhetoric surrounding the topic of introducing a genetically modified protein to fast food chains didn’t help speed along the FDA’s decision, but ultimately, the protein was deemed safe. Testing on multiple rats found no serious health issues, and thus, we have a plant-based burger that “bleeds” now available to the public.

Burger King follows in the steps of White Castle and Del Taco in using this new soy-based burger, who’s next?

According to the Impossible Whopper finder on the Impossible Foods website, there are no Burger King locations serving the meat alternative in Florida yet.

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